Plans for a new grocery store in Harlem are on hold while city officials work out details of the plans with supermarket officials.
W. Lee Flowers and Co., which owns and operates the IGA store on West Milledgeville Road, and its partner company, KJ Investments, bought the former Thomson Co. site for an expanded IGA supermarket.
Plans are to make the nearly three acres on the corner of West Milledgeville Road and South Hatcher Street a 32,000-square-foot, full-service supermarket, said Will King, W. Lee Flowers' real estate director.
"This store would mean so much to the town as a lifestyle, by them (Harlem residents) not having to drive to Grovetown or Augusta for their full line of frozen foods products, bakery items ... and things like that." King said. "That is where I think they are hurting themselves.
"And if they are driving people away because of some of these regulations, I think they are missing the point of what these stores are supposed to do, which is enrich community life."
Harlem Mayor Bobby Culpepper said city officials welcome the expanded store but will not compromise the city's regulations regarding the building facade.
"We want him to come," Culpepper said. "It is just like anything else. We have some standards."
Commercial buildings, especially those within the city's Historic District, are required to have a facade made of brick, stucco or textured masonry block, Harlem City Manager Jean Dove said.
The proposal for the facade include an exterior finish insulation system that King said is a synthetic, and more cost-effective, version of stucco.
"We're trying to get the town to work with us a little bit. They have taken issue with some of the materials we are trying to use," King said.
He said he understands why cities have such regulations to provide some cohesion during rapid development.
King said that his company has spent about $100,000 having its typical supermarket plans redesigned to fit the small lot and that he doesn't understand why city officials don't grant a variance on the facade material.
"We try to get around a lot of these senseless regulations," King said. "It just adds cost to an already very expensive project."
Culpepper said that a brick facade will not change the cost of the project much.
"Like I told him, we're looking not just short term, but long term," the mayor said. "We want a building that in 10 or 15 years from now is going to look good. And we know brick does that."
Culpepper said the city has received architectural plans and drawings for the project, but no engineering plans have been submitted. Both need to be approved by the city's Planning and Zoning Committee and Historic Preservation Committee before construction can begin.
King said that if no variance is granted for the exterior finish insulation system facade, his company could decide to put the property on the real estate market and continue to operate the current IGA.
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