Construction of a new Wegmans on U.S. 15-501 is looming, but the grocery store could be smaller than anticipated.
The $30 million project will replace the now-vacant 14.7-acre Performance AutoMall between the highway and Old Durham Road. The dealership has moved to the Southpoint Auto Mall near The Streets at Southpoint.
Demolition is now underway, but the Wegmans project was slow to start because of unexpected delays, town officials said. The anticipated opening is now in the spring or summer of 2020.
Although the council approved a 130,000-square-foot Wegmans store last year, the developer recently got town staff approval to build 99,000 square feet instead.
The new store is part of an East Coast expansion that could bring five locations to Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Cary and Wake Forest. One of the planned Cary stores also was downsized recently — from 130,000 square feet to 103,000 square feet — reflecting a new direction for Wegmans that meets changing market demands.
“They’ve done this to all their stores,” Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said. “They found a better way to have less square footage, so less heating and cooling and all of that, and still (offer) the same amount of inventory.”
The smaller Chapel Hill store did not need Town Council approval, because the council is only required to vote on projects that exceed their permitted square footage by 5 percent or more.
Steve Brantley, the county’s economic development director, said the smaller store shouldn’t affect the $4 million tax incentive that the town and Orange County agreed to pay the New York-based company in the first five years.
Each government will pay up to $400,000 a year from the project’s new property tax revenues if Wegmans:
▪ Creates 185 full-time jobs and 413 part-time jobs
▪ Meets annual property and sales-tax revenue goals. Wegmans is expected to generate over $1.8 million in property and sales taxes each year.
The incentive isn’t based on a specific square footage, Brantley said, and the company doesn’t get the full annual incentive if it doesn’t meet its annual goals. The county would never offer an incentive deal that puts it “at risk of the company not delivering,” he said.
A smaller store also isn’t expected to reduce the amount of parking or traffic Wegmans could generate, officials said.
The project has been approved for 750 parking spaces in two lots, including a satellite lot across Old Durham Road. It could add over 3,200 vehicles to surrounding roads each day, up from roughly 7,500 vehicles now.
Improvements are planned to surrounding roads and intersections, and the town, N.C. Department of Transportation and Wegmans will monitor traffic on Old Durham Road during construction and after the store opens.