On June 25, representatives from Lidl, a German grocery store chain that has recently launched in the United States, and their team of architects, engineers and planners, held a community meeting at the North Creek Community Center to discuss their plans for redeveloping the vacant Professional Center site, which they recently purchased. This meeting was part of the planning process required by Montgomery County, and followed several other, non-mandatory, community outreach efforts by Lidl, including a concept review by the MVF Commercial Architectural Review Committee (CARC) and a presentation at the Whetstone Homes Corporation Board of Directors meeting. Lidl also presented their plans to the Montgomery Village Foundation Board of Directors at their June meeting, two days after the community meeting.
Lidl presented their plans for the site, which incorporated feedback they received over the past year and reflect both the requirements of the site’s new Commercial/Residential CRT Zone and current planning principles. The 30,000 square-foot grocery store will be located in the northwest corner of the site, at the intersection of Montgomery Village Avenue and Centerway Road, with a proposed second retail development totaling approximately 25,000 square feet located in the southwest corner near the intersection of Montgomery Village Avenue and Whetstone Drive. This second retail site does not currently have any occupant(s) and will be developed as a second phase, with separate community outreach efforts.
Features of Lidl’s site plan include easy pedestrian access from existing sidewalks and community walking paths; a pedestrian plaza in front of the entrance, creating a vibrant, active street corner at Montgomery Village Avenue and Centerway Road; significant landscaping throughout the site; a loading dock built so that trucks will be 8 feet below grade at the end of the loading area and screened by a masonry wall and landscaping; dumpsters that will be screened both by masonry walls and landscaping; and maintenance of the existing site entrances on Montgomery Village Avenue and Centerway Road.
The architecture of the building was designed to encourage a pedestrian-friendly streetscape and incorporate building materials used in the Village. In addition to the pedestrian access and plaza, the store is proposed to be built into the grade along Centerway Road so that the height stays level to pedestrians walking along Centerway Road. Materials will be mainly stucco, brick, architectural block and gray metal trim. The roof will be gray in color to improve the energy efficiency of the building.
Several resident questions concerned the delivery schedule and circulation pattern for delivery trucks. Lidl noted that because 90% of their products are their own private label and are stored at their central distribution center in Fredericksburg, Va., they only expect one delivery per day. The delivery would take place around 5 a.m. so that the shelves can be stocked by the 8 a.m. opening time.
The circulation pattern is still to be determined, but both entrances are planned to accommodate trucks, and it is anticipated that trucks will enter the site from Montgomery Village Avenue, exiting on Centerway Road to turn left on Montgomery Village Avenue and return to I-270.
Traffic impact concerns were also expressed by residents. Lidl responded that they are doing a detailed traffic study to determine the impact this development will have on the surrounding streets and intersections. That study will also take into consideration the impacts of the Village Center redevelopment and the residential development on the former golf course property. The traffic study will be released soon and will be part of their submission to the county.
Residents also inquired about parking, sharing concerns that shoppers would park in adjacent communities. Lidl assured residents that parking availability on the site exceeds county requirements; they are planning 155 spots and the county requires 105. Neighbors also expressed concern about the impact of the site’s lighting on surrounding homes. Lidl noted that the county requires that the site is dark at the property lines, and they will be submitting a detailed lighting plan with their submission to the county demonstrating compliance with that requirement.
Shopping cart control also came up during the meeting. Lidl will have a cart corral at the entrance to the building and is willing to work with the community on other control strategies should cart control become a problem.
Residents also wanted to know more about the construction schedule and plans for the second half of the site while it is going through the planning and permitting process. Lidl noted that demolition will begin once they have received all of their approvals and permits from the county. They will demolish all of the buildings on the entire site at the same time, and will create a lawn area on the southern half of the property, though some of the pavement may need to remain in place so as not to disturb existing trees. Lidl owns the entire site, and will be responsible for maintaining it during and after construction.
Lidl is planning to submit site plans and subdivision plan for approval later in July, and anticipates a Planning Board hearing in December, per the county’s requirements. Following that hearing, Lidl will need to file for several permits before they can begin construction. They are also required to receive CARC approval of the final design plans, which will incorporate any feedback received at their concept review meeting with the committee. Lidl is eager to open and hope to be able to do so by spring 2021.
Residents who want to be involved in the planning process are encouraged to check the planning department’s website www.montgomeryplanning.org, for updates on hearings, reach out directly to planning department staff, contact MVF and look for signs posted at the site for more information.