Fort Wayne fans of Trader Joe’s – you’ll have to wait longer for one of the grocery chain’s stores to come to town.
At Monday night’s public hearing on a new upscale grocery store for the site formerly occupied by a Scott’s supermarket on North Anthony Boulevard, nothing more was said about the prospective occupant of the 44,000-square-foot building.
"We’re under nondisclosure agreements," said developer Bradley Sturges, president of CBRE/Sturges of Fort Wayne.
But asked after the hearing if a Trader Joe’s could be ruled out, Sturges said it could.
That company’s stores are much smaller, around 14,000 square feet, than the proposed store, Sturges said, adding the prospective occupant is not currently in the Fort Wayne grocery market.
Luring a Trader Joe’s has been the object of a long-running online petition.
Without letting the name out of the bag, Sturges gave a preview of the features of the new store, which has been a priority of neighborhood groups since Scott’s was closed in 2012 because of structural problems.
The grocery would offer a full-scale food-shopping experience, without being a giant "lettuce to lawn chairs" type of store, Sturges said.
A coffee shop, deli, prepared food section, salad bar, large produce section and meat counter with butchers will all be features, along with standard grocery aisles and a pharmacy with a drive-thru lane, Sturges said.
"It’s designed to be more convenient" than the 100,000-square-foot megamarkets, he said. "We think it’s a unique concept of market and something we intend to replicate in other areas of Fort Wayne."
He added: "I’m sure everyone will be happy with the end result."
Sturges said construction could begin in the spring, with the store opening by the end of 2016. How many new jobs will result is not yet determined.
Although about 60 people attended the meeting, only five spoke. John Schoedel, of the North Anthony Corridor Group, a business group, was the only person speaking in favor.
The other speakers raised concerns about the design of the site. They questioned whether there was enough room for tractor-trailer access to two loading docks on the west side of the building, the reduction from ordinance-required setbacks on the west and north sides, why the building facade did not line up with the front of the neighboring shopping center to the north and whether too much parking was being provided at the expense of other spaces.
Dan Wire, speaking on behalf of the North Side Neighborhood Association, also said there was a lack of communication between the four neighborhood associations near the property before the hearing, saying neighbors want the project to be "the best it could be."
He asked for a 30-day continuation of the hearing, but a motion to that effect by commission member Judi Wire failed for lack of a second.
Asked by commission members for a show of hands, roughly equal numbers of attendees showed "support" and "concerns" about the project.
Developers are asking for a rezoning of the approximately 3.8-acre tract from commercial to Neighborhood Center to allow for the size of the building as well as approval of a development plan.
The plan commission will vote Jan. 25 on both proposals. If approved, the rezoning will then go before the city council.