Kroger plans a major expansion and upgrade of its Fountain Oaks supermarket. But first it must negotiate with worried neighbors who say the store is already a source of delivery noise problems.
The plans also involve buying and demolishing a public housing building in Sandy Springs, at 151 West Belle Isle Road, apparently to expand the parking lot. Residents involved in the talks with Kroger and shopping center owner EDENS, Inc. say they are concerned that plans for the property remain unclear.
“We’re very supportive of [Kroger] in this expansion,” but not “at our personal expenses,” said Paul Wendlandt, a West Belle Isle homeowner who is among many abutters involved in the talks.
Kroger would not comment on the negotiations, and EDENS and the Galloway Law Group, which represents the project, did not respond to questions. Kroger sought a 30-day deferral from the city’s Planning Commission last month to talk with neighbors. Wendlandt said the group is due to meet again Aug. 10 with updated plans.
Built in 1987, the Kroger at 4920 Roswell Road is outdated and small by modern standards. The plan would expand it by nearly 40 percent, from 61,000 to 84,000 square feet. That involves demolishing several other shopping center storefronts that until recently housed such businesses as a martial arts studio and a coin-trading shop. Kroger aims to start work this fall and wrap up late next year.
“The multi-million-dollar investment will include new décor, upscale elements in service departments, [an] expanded grocery department, [an] expanded bakery and deli, and extensive natural and organic food offerings,” Kroger spokesman Glynn Jenkins said in an email.
But even at its current size, the store creates noise problems with late-night deliveries and unloading of trucks, neighbors said at the July 16 Planning Commission meeting. Wendlandt said residents have logged more than 150 noise complaints with the police in recent years, but Kroger has never offered a practical solution.
“We’ve had numerous conversations with Kroger in which they’ve essentially given us the middle finger,” Wendlandt said. “We don’t have much confidence, trust or faith in Kroger doing the right thing or being a good neighbor.”
A city staff report says Kroger did not provide enough information to figure out whether the expanded store would have more deliveries heading for the loading docks off West Belle Isle Road. Residents are concerned that, with even less room, trucks would be forced to line up on the street, and would discover there is no turnaround room.
Parking is another concern. The existing shopping center is “underparked,” with fewer spaces than current code requires, according to the city. EDENS and Kroger are seeking a variance to allow 599 parking spaces instead of the required 910.
Purchasing the public housing would allow adding more parking later, and in the meantime, EDENS has talked about using it as a construction staging area for the Kroger project, residents say. But, Wendlandt said, officials in a recent meeting said “it’s not likely that [construction stage] will happen,” leaving open the question of where that major work would happen.
The Housing Authority of Fulton County already had plans to sell the nine-unit West Belle Isle public housing building, dating back to 2012. Teresa Davis at HAFC said the apartment building, built in 1966, has “outlived its usefulness” and is “very expensive to maintain.”
Davis said the property is currently under agreement for the sale to AmREIT, the center’s former owner, which EDENS recently acquired. If and when the deal closes, the public housing tenants will get a 90-day notice to move, help in finding new housing, and subsidizing housing vouchers to maintain their ability to pay rent.
“Rest assured, they won’t be put out on the street,” Davis said.