Lidl, a German discount supermarket chain with more than 10,000 locations in Europe, wants to open one of its first American stores in Charlottesville.
Lidl announced last year that it would establish its U.S. headquarters in Arlington, build a distribution center in Spotsylvania County and plan to begin opening stores in America by 2018. The company is seeking potential store locations in Virginia and seven other East Coast states.
In late August, the Timmons Group design firm submitted a plan to the Albemarle County Department of Community Development for a Lidl grocery store on an empty lot on Pantops at 1248 Richmond Road. On Tuesday, plans for a Richmond location were filed.
Timmons Group project manager Craig Kotarski and Lidl US purchasing manager Matt Miller said that they could not comment on the plan.
“We are actively pursuing sites in the [Charlottesville] area, and this is one we are looking at,” Lidl US spokesperson Will Harwood said in an email. Harwood said that the company had not set opening dates for any of its American stores.
Lidl’s U.S. location criteria, as outlined on their website, require store sites to be positioned in established retail locations and large enough to accommodate a 36,000-square-foot standalone store with at least 150 parking spaces. A preferred site prototype places the store between a main road and a secondary road.
A rendering in the Timmons Group’s application shows a 36,185-square-foot store building facing U.S. 250, close to the Pantops Shopping Center. Its parking lot also would be accessible from Route 20.
The proposal notes that the store’s window wall and curved roof would resemble the BMW of Charlottesville dealership on the opposite side of U.S. 250.
It also says that “every effort will be made” to preserve the vegetation on the perimeter of the site. Additional trees would be planted in the parking lot “to break up the size of the lot.”
The Albemarle County Architectural Review Board is scheduled to review the application at its Oct. 3 meeting.
Albemarle County’s Pantops Master Plan, adopted in 2008, includes the proposed Lidl store site in Pantops’ “core” area of greatest activity. The plan recommended that future development should “intensify use of the area with Urban Mixed Uses.”
The site is zoned as a highway commercial area.
“The whole area is supposed to have equal parts of residential and commercial use,” said Elaine Echols, the acting chief of planning for Albemarle County, referring to the larger area that includes the site.
“In Albemarle County, recommended land-use designations and zoning do not always line up. But in this case, both the zoning and the Master Plan recommend commercial uses at this location,” Echols said.
Will Norton, a University of Virginia student on the Pantops Community Advisory Committee, said that he saw no need for more grocery stores on Pantops.
“Both the master plan and common sense call for redevelopment of existing built areas, not the extension of the strip-mall design that has so far characterized both Pantops and so much more of the county,” Norton said in an email.
In a 2015 news release, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said that Lidl’s arrival in the state demonstrated “Virginia’s ability to attract companies from all over the globe.”