Plans for former grocery store to become mixed-retail site formalize

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Denison's former Kroger building may soon be redeveloped as a mixed commercial space with Ace Hardware as an anchor.

City presents plans showing Ace Hardware may be interested

For generations, the Kroger Grocery on Crawford Street served Denison as a major anchor for downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. While the building's time as a grocery store has passed, the building may see redevelopment soon.

Representatives with the Denison Development Alliance confirmed that the former grocery store has been sold to a new developer who plans to transform it into a mixture of retail uses.

Kroger announced that the grocery would close, marking the company's departure from Denison, in 2019 following nearly 60 years of business in the city. Since then, work to find a new owner and new use has quietly been taking place in the background, DDA President Tony Kaai said.

"It was a priority — not the highest priority, but a priority," Kaai said. "We wanted to get it redeveloped because it is close to downtown and it fits in with the development we have taking place there."

Kaai would not confirm who the primary anchor for the site would be. However, the site was briefly discussed during the city's annual budget retreat in late June and slides indicated that Ace Hardware would be the new tenant.

Ace Hardware is holding a grand opening for its new location in Medway, Massachusetts, according to a Facebook post from the company.

Current plans call for the nearly 25,000 square foot building to be split into multiple units with two large anchors planned for development and the remaining space, estimated at about 6,000 square feet, to be redeveloped as a shell building for possible future uses.

"It could be retail. It could be general office. I've had a couple people come in for ... think of a place where you train athletes," Kaai said regarding the future use for the remaining space. "I've had two different people come in that are training young athletes."

Representatives with Kroger announced in February 2019 that the store would be closing its doors at the site in April of that year. For years, development had shifted to the west and areas surrounding U.S. Highway 75. The long-time grocery chain also faced competition from Albertson's, who had a more modernized location just blocks away.

“We have worked to improve the store with various upgrades, products and great talent,” April Martin Nickels, corporate affairs manager for The Kroger Co., said in 2019. “However, despite our best efforts, we were unable to improve profitability. We never want to close any store; however, we cannot continue to operate stores that underperform for sustained periods.”

At that time, DDA began to work with site owners to finding a new tenant for future use. However, the property had deed restrictions which limited some possible uses.

The site was purchased about a year ago by developers who planned to revitalize the facility. However, the project has since seen some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"There is a group of individuals, a company, that bought it over a year ago," Kaai said. "From that time that they purchased that property, the city and I have worked with them on their development plans, site plans and construction plans."

More details on the project should be available in coming weeks as crews finish site planning and early documents are submitted with the city.