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Kroger planning bigger store for Rincon
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Kroger has submitted plans for a substantially larger store that will be built next to Lowe’s in Rincon.

Rincon City Council members approved the initial site plan for the Kroger marketplace, which will include a fuel center, at their meeting Monday night.

Arahn Hawkins of Kroger’s real estate division presented plans for a 123,000 square foot store to be built on 26.81 acres off Highway 21 and Brentwood Drive. The current Kroger, on Highway 21 and just off Silver Lake Drive, is 44,000 square feet.

“It is a leased facility that we have outgrown,” Hawkins said.

The new Kroger could open in the first quarter of 2016, and the lease on the current store is expected to expire that same year.
The expanded store will include a fuel center. The Kroger in Richmond Hill also has a fuel outlet.

“The fuel center is a complement to our stores,” Hawkins said.

Kroger is planning what it calls a marketplace, which Hawkins explained is more than a grocery store inside its walls. They include apparel, expanded baby offerings, more kitchen and household goods, a 1,500 square foot Fred Meyer Jewelers outlet, a minute clinic health care, expanded organic food selections, a cheese shop and perhaps a Starbucks.

“It’s a lot different from your typical grocery store,” Hawkins said.

Kroger has built five marketplaces in the Southeast, including one on Mall Boulevard in Savannah.

The store will sit on 18 acres, with room for two outparcels that could be used for other stores or a restaurant.

Abdul Amer, president of A&R Engineering, which specializes in traffic studies, said the plan to accommodate the expected increase of vehicles from the new store and on Highway 21 includes widening a stretch of 21 to six lanes from Fort Howard Road to the signal at Walmart. A traffic signal also will be installed at Brentwood Drive and 21.

“Because of these stores and their popularity, they draw a lot of traffic,” Hawkins said.

Traffic at the current store is approximately 18,000-20,000 vehicles a week. For the planned Kroger marketplace, the vehicle count is pegged at 25,000-30,000 vehicles weekly.

Without a traffic light at the entrance to the new Kroger, Amer feared traffic would back up even more on Fort Howard Road. Kroger and the state Department of Transportation have been in discussions over the plans to increase traffic capacity. The DOT also is looking at adding a left turn-only lane from Fort Howard Road onto Highway 21.

“I believe this is going to be a positive impact, with the improvements,” he said. “The level of service will be as good, if not better. It’s a good opportunity to get a lot of improvements done.”

While the fuel center itself will not be a convenience store setup, there will be shop space behind it, and Hawkins said the company already has drawn interest. The 18 acres for the new Kroger itself are valued at more than $986,000. Hawks said the company intends to buy the land.
Construction on the Kroger marketplace is expected to take about a year, once it starts.

“I’ve been to the Kroger marketplace in Hilton Head, and it’s fantastic,” said Rincon City Council member James Dasher. “I’m excited you chose our fair city.”