A German-based grocery store chain’s plans to build a store in Salem moved ahead this week, when Salem City Council approved a physical improvements bond for the vacant acreage next to Lowe’s Home Improvement Center.
Lidl Grocery Store – known as a discount grocer – plans to break ground this spring for the almost 36,000-square-foot store set back from West Main Street on South Bruffey Street. It would be near Lowe’s Garden Center and the section of South Bruffey where nine homes are located. The homes were built for former tannery employees shortly after the turn of the 20th Century.
Lowe’s is built where the tannery was, and later, a small strip mall known as West Salem Plaza that included popular pizza restaurant Carini’s.
Lidl has announced intentions of opening 100 new stores on the East Coast by mid-2018. The first 20 will be in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The chain sells everything from produce to pants, according to websites, at discount prices in a no-frills atmosphere.
Many Salem residents are thrilled at the possibilities of a new store and the availability of new products, but some of the South Bruffey residents are concerned what effects another large store could have on their quiet neighborhood on a dead-end street.
“It will be something different, and could bring international flavor to Salem,” said Salem resident John Steven Lucado, who is proud to describe himself as “Salem born and Salem bred.”
“We’re excited about it,” said Salem Mayor Randy Foley. “It will be unique to the area for a while, and it means vacant property will be put to good use.”
Salem’s Lidl will be one of three announced so far in the Roanoke and New River Valleys. The others are in Roanoke County nearer Vinton, at Valley Gateway Boulevard and Challenger, and in Christiansburg, where grading has already begun.
The 36,000-square-foot size of the Salem store is said to be more-than-twice as large as another German discount grocery, Aldi’s, that is located near Sam’s in Roanoke, but about one-fifth the size of WalMart Supercenter in Salem.
Property owner Richard Bishop has owned the land in Salem since the shopping center closed and been interested in attracting compatible businesses next to Lowe’s. He also owns several other parcels, including 1.4 acres he is retaining on South Bruffey, as well as the Mason Mechanical building on Bruffey closer to Main Street.
Salem City Planner Ben Tripp said Mason Mechanical will be demolished, as will the building on Main where Pine Ridge Nursery was formerly located. Pine Ridge moved farther west off Main Street, near Applebee’s.
South Bruffey residents Howard Nash and Hank Jackson were in the audience March 13 when Salem City Council approved the improvements and erosion and sediment control bond. Their concerns and those of their neighbors who could not be there that night, they said, included how much additional traffic the store would bring to their area, as well as lighting that could light up the night in their neighborhood.
There is one house for sale now on South Bruffey, Jackson said, and another whose sale fell through when potential buyers learned about Lidl coming. Nash wondered how late Lidl plans to be open.
As of March 13, Nash and Jackson had not seen site plans filed in the Engineering and Planning office a block away. Because the property was already zoned Highway Business District, Lidl’s proposed store did not need to come before the Salem Planning Commission nor Salem City Council for approval.
Those plans are now filed in the Engineering and Planning office and are available for public view. The plans show the city’s standard perimeter parking lot buffer of 25 red bud trees and three red maples. In addition, a number of 10-foot-high arbor vitae evergreens would be planted on the edge of the property.
Salem City Manager Kevin Boggess said he and Councilmembers had been aware of Lidl’s interest in Salem for almost a year.