Chapel Hill News

Wegmans confirms interest in opening Chapel Hill grocery store

Wegmans may add grocery stores in Chapel Hill, Cary, Raleigh

News and Observer reporter Kathryn Trogdon discusses how Wegmans Food Markets is looking to open its first North Carolina stores in Cary. Video by Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
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News and Observer reporter Kathryn Trogdon discusses how Wegmans Food Markets is looking to open its first North Carolina stores in Cary. Video by Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

Local officials confirmed Wednesday that Wegmans Food Markets could call a site on U.S. 15-501 its new home in a few years.

Town and Orange County leaders will consider a total of $4 million in economic development incentives to help the company locate in Orange County, develop the site and build the facility. The money would be paid in five installments of up to $800,000 each over five years.

The 120,000-square-foot project could add $1.7 million in new property and sales taxes each year, officials said in a news release. The agreement is based on Wegmans meeting annual jobs, property tax and sales tax goals, Chapel Hill Town Manager Roger Stancil said.

The company expects the Chapel Hill store to create 185 full-time and 413 part-time jobs, officials said.

“We are delighted to move forward with our plans for a store in Chapel Hill,” Ralph Uttaro, Wegmans senior vice president of real estate, said in a news release.

“I know that we will bring a unique shopping experience to the market that will deliver on our promise of incredible customer service, the best ingredients, restaurant-quality prepared foods and consistent low prices,” he said.

The Town Council will discuss the project at a public hearing Monday in Chapel Hill Town Hall. The Orange County Board of Commissioners will consider it on Tuesday.

Performance AutoMall now occupies the 14-acre site but is slated to close in July and move to a new location near The Streets at Southpoint. Leon Capital Group of Dallas plans to invest about $30 million to perform environmental remediation and redevelop the property.

Town documents show Wegmans completed a traffic impact analysis this summer for the already congested roads around the site, which sits near the intersection of U.S. 15-501 and Old Chapel Hill-Durham Road. The store could have at least 750 parking spaces.

Wegmans has not submitted a concept plan yet. The Town Council and Community Design Commission will review the concept plan at a public meeting, once submitted, and provide the developer with feedback, which could be used to submit a formal special-use permit application.

The project would face multiple public hearings.

Mayor Pam Hemminger noted the site on Chapel Hill’s eastern gateway poses challenges and opportunity.

“We are working proactively to bring new retail to our town and believe that Wegmans will further solidify Chapel Hill as a regional foodie destination,” Hemminger said.

Orange County has been seeking new markets for area farmers and food producers, Commissioners Chairman Earl McKee said.

“We are working together to attract companies that create diversified, well-paying employment opportunities for our residents,” he said. “This incentive proposal will help us take another step toward making Orange County more competitive – especially by adding a substantial market for farmers and food producers.”

Wegmans has 91 stores, more than 46,000 employees and $7.9 billion in 2015 revenue. The family-owned company, known for its “European open-air market feel,” is headquartered in Rochester, N.Y., and has stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.

It was ranked the No. 1 supermarket in the country in 2015 in Consumer Reports’ annual survey of customers. Market Force Information called the grocer “America’s Favorite Supermarket” in its April study of 10,000 consumers nationwide.

Chapel Hill would be Wegmans’ second North Carolina location, if approved. Plans for a Cary store were announced earlier this year; the company also is reportedly thinking about a second location in a Cary mixed-use development.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb

What’s next

The Town Council’s public hearing begins at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17, in the Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The Orange County Board of Commissioners will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in the Southern Human Services Center, 2501 Homestead Road in Chapel Hill.

The proposed agreements are available online at bit.ly/1C2SHgG and at bit.ly/2bLP6s4. A concept plan, once submitted, would be posted at bit.ly/2eh4XVz.

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