Delayed Midtown Kroger Details Unveiled

By Madeline Faber

With completion of the Union Avenue store now 18 months past initial projections, Kroger Delta Division officials say that the store is on track and “not anywhere near your standard Kroger.”

(Pickering Architecture and Engineering)

Kroger unveiled several updates in a Tuesday, Oct. 20, meeting sponsored by the Midtown Action Coalition.

The store at 1761 Union Ave. will feature a Starbucks with a patio, interior Corky’s restaurant and Murray’s Cheese Shop, growler fill station, juice bar, bike-repair station and two electric car charging stations.

Teresa Dickerson, ‎PR and community affairs manager at Kroger Delta Division, said that initial projections of a first quarter 2015 opening date were based on building a standard Kroger without the new amenities.

In April, Dickerson released a statement saying that building was pushed back in the preplanning process “because of the weather and issues with the soil.”

The 54,000-square-foot store is set to open fall 2016. 

Parking and traffic issues were hot points for most of those in attendance at the public meeting, held at the Memphis Heritage headquarters.

“It’ll remain a challenge, but it won’t be as bad as it is today,” said Brad Schmiedicke, project architect with Pickering Inc.

The updated plan will reduce the three curb cuts from the Kroger parking lot facing Union Avenue down to just one main entrance to the east of the store. There will be a minor entrance on Idlewild Street controlled with “right-in left-out” easements at a 45-degree angle to limit the amount of traffic coming from Kroger heading south on Idlewild.

Instead, visitors will be forced to turn north toward Union when exiting the store. This modification was made to gain Board of Adjustment approvals.

Access to the Idlewild entrance would change if Belz Investco moves forward with a proposed gate to close traffic to the south side of Idlewild, just 235 feet away from the Union intersection.

Belz owns property on both sides of the gate: A commercial building that houses the Methodist Diagnostic Center, 1801 Union Ave., and a house on Idlewild behind the medical building.

Kroger said that it would be present when the proposal goes before the Land Use Control Board on Nov. 12.

Navigating to the store on Union could get a small reprieve with a $950,000 grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Multimodal Access Grant program. Over the summer, it was announced that one of Midtown’s busiest corridors would be restriped with a left turning lane and bike lane.

While TDOT’s grant is only going toward the segment between Marshall Avenue and Pauline Street, the Memphis Metropolitan Planning Organization said that the city is interested in extending these updates further at a later date.

Adding a traffic light across Union on Auburndale Street would be impossible, Kroger officials said.

In the updated site plan, the back driveway on Lemaster Street will open specifically for deliveries, but patrons will be able to use it as well. Lemaster will feed into an underground, 50,000-square-foot area housing a loading dock, food preparation facilities and employee parking.

This will be the only store in the Memphis market with an underground floor.

At the meeting, Kroger also touched on its April purchase of 18.2 acres in the Washington Bottoms neighborhood for $3.9 million.

“It’s an area of interest for us,” Dickerson said. “We do not have any plans for it right now.”