Kroger Co. will add a gas station to its store at West 86th Street and Township Line Road after successfully lobbying an Indianapolis City-County Council member who'd threatened to stand in its way.
Councilor Jose Evans, whose Pike Township district includes the Willow Lake shopping center, had promised to hold up approval on Monday evening by calling for a full hearing before the council if Kroger couldn’t compromise on the station's location within the plaza. The Metropolitan Development Commission already had approved the grocer's plans in a 5-4 vote, and the council typically affirms most MDC zoning decisions without further hearings.
Cincinnati-based Kroger has made gas discounts for loyalty-card shoppers a key piece of its market strategy, and it’s in the process of adding gas stations to as many stores as possible.
Evans decided to support the Kroger gas station after visiting the store Sunday and talking with customers. He also met Monday morning with Kroger’s legal, real estate and lobbying team. “It’s in the best interest of my district to support this gas station,” Evans said. “This was a hard decision.”
Facing opposition on the council, local Kroger President Bob Moeder wrote a letter to customers, which was available in the store along with plan drawings for the gas station, or “fuel center.”
“Kroger stores that lack a pharmacy or fuel center are dramatically less competitive than those that have them,” Moeder’s letter said. “This can make the difference between a profitable store and a failing store. In other words, approval of this fuel center also is about protecting the investment Kroger has made in the existing store and the 106 associates who work there.”
While Kroger says the store could fail without a gas station, spokesman John Elliott told IBJ he could not "specifically say, no fuel center means [a] closed store.”
Council member Angela Mansfield, who represents a section of Washington Township near the store, asked for a hearing on the matter Monday, but her motion died without a second motion, and the council OK'd the project.
Mansfield said she'd heard from a number of constituents, and she opposed adding the gas station because the shopping center wasn't designed to accomodate one.
Evans said he still had concerns about the gas station's environmental impact and access to the center. He'd also hoped that Kroger could place it away from the nearby Bravo restaurant, which has outdoor seating. Indianapolis attorney Mike Quinn, who represents Kroger on real estate matters, said changes to the plan were impossible because the three other co-tenants of the plaza, who have to sign off on site plans, would not agree.
Quinn said the store, last upgraded in 2005, is in line for $3 million in improvements, $1 million of which will be in the fuel center.