Lidl store 5_4.jpg (copy)

A company-provided photo of one of European grocer Lidl’s U.S. stores.

The empty Whitlock Ave. strip mall once anchored by an A&P will soon be home to a new grocery store – a new Lidl is set to go into the vacant property, the city announced Wednesday.

“That is the one thing we’ve heard for years is that people have wanted a grocery store to go in that area, and for it to be a specialized grocery as this is,” said City Manager Bill Bruton. “And so I think everybody is going to get what they’ve been wanting for many years.”

The 37,000-square-foot structure was built in 1974. The Great A&P Co. grocery store there shuttered its doors in 1993.

A World Gym occupied the space briefly until 2006, and the parking lot out front was used for Christmas tree sales the following year, according to the city. It was a perpetual gripe target for neighbors, who called it an eyesore and complained about a lack of nearby grocery stores.

Economic Development Manager Daniel Cummings said the empty store was “probably the No. 1 piece of property I get asked about.”

Cummings said the property started turning around when it was purchased in October by Atlanta-based Blanchard Real Estate for $1.85 million.

“On a scale of good owners to bad owners, these owners have been intricately involved with the city, communicating with us, talking about the possibilities that could go on this property that has garnered so much interest and so much attention,” he said.

Cummings and Mayor Steve Tumlin announced plans to build the new store at the mayor’s annual state of the city address at the Mansour Conference Center.

“They’re a very competitive, very innovative brand,” Tumlin said after the meeting. “It was a good one to get. … It’s kind of like putting the heart back in. That A&P was awful popular. It’s been a void for a long time. … It’s going to mean the world for people in Ward 4, Wards 2 and 3, to have a grocer they can get to without going forever.”

Based in Germany, Lidl operates about 10,500 stores in 29 countries, including more than 50 across nine East Coast states. The chain opened three metro Atlanta stores this year, including two in Cobb. One is at the corner of Barrett Parkway and Powder Springs Road and the other is in Mableton, on Floyd Road near the intersection of Nickajack Road.

Bruton said the fact that the chain is opening a new spot so close to its other new stores shows their confidence in the city.

“From what they’re telling us, they love the market, the market study they did and from what they’re looking at, the numbers are very very good, so they’re expecting to do very well there,” he said. “They’ve delivered a site plan to us, how they would lay it out and how it would be built, so now they’re going to go through the permitting process.

Bruton said the city’s zoning department will be reviewing. The company will likely be requesting some variances that will need to be approved by the City Council, but Bruton said it was nothing major.

“Initial assessment is that it looks good,” he said.

No timeline for the plan was announced.

“It’s still a long way to go, but it’s something the city is eagerly engaged with them on, and we’re looking forward to working with them,” Cummings said.

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