The German discount grocer Lidl has killed its plan to open a store at Sandy Springs’ North River Shopping Center following community and city staff opposition. It also withdrew from a contract for another local store that was not as far along in the planning process.
Stream Realty Partners, the developer working with Lidl, filed a notice of the plan’s withdrawal on April 11 “due to the proposed grocery store terminating its contract to buy the land,” according to a city planning memo.
“Officials from the city of Sandy Springs made it clear they were trying to prevent Lidl from opening in the city,” said Simon Arpiarian, Stream’s co-managing partner.
As part of its U.S. debut, Lidl also was eyeing another Stream-owed Sandy Springs location, the Marshall’s Plaza at 6337 Roswell Road. Arpiarian said Lidl withdrew from a contract to purchase a store location at that site as well.
Lidl’s U.S. branch headquarters did not respond to questions about its withdrawal or whether it will seek other local store sites.
City filings show the Lidl plan for North River, at 8877 Roswell Road in northern Sandy Springs, got blasted for being out of step with the mixed-use, higher-end, pedestrian-friendly goals of the city’s new land-use plan.
Lack of transparency was another concern; Lidl didn’t send its own representatives to community meetings, swore its Stream partners to secrecy, and for months wouldn’t confirm or deny its intended entry into Sandy Springs. Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods leaders praised Stream and Lidl for working to give Sandy Springs better-looking stores. But they also expressed concern that city officials proposed a largely unexplained zoning change allowing bigger grocery stores in the downtown area that would have benefited Lidl, yet did not name it.
Stream had a rocky appearance before the city Planning Commission last month, and city zoning package contains dozens of criticisms from residents, including the head of the nearby Huntcliff Homes Association.
“Adding a big-box discounter, particularly with its larger footprint, caters to who Sandy Springs was, not who it aspires to be,” wrote Huntcliff resident Suzanne Durbin in an email to city officials.
Another critic was Carolyn Axt, an influential member of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors. ““Let’s hold off for what this area really can be – a jewel for Sandy Springs,” she wrote to Mayor Rusty Paul and other officials.
Lidl and its discount grocery competitor Aldi, also based in Germany, are pushing to expand internationally. The Marshall’s Plaza site is directly across the street from an existing Aldi.