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Tuesday April 13th

Wegmans is coming to Chapel Hill — just a little bit later and smaller than expected

This Wegmans store in Chapel Hill will look like this store in Alexandria, VA. Photo contributed by Valerie Fox.
Buy Photos This Wegmans store in Chapel Hill will look like this store in Alexandria, VA. Photo contributed by Valerie Fox.

Wegmans, a supermarket chain based in Rochester, N.Y., is coming to Chapel Hill but will open later and be smaller than originally anticipated. 

The store, originally expected to be 130,000 square feet, will be 99,000 square feet and will open in the spring or summer of 2020 instead of the fall of 2019. 

Wegmans will replace Performance Automall, between U.S. 15-501 and Old Durham Road. 

The $30 million project will operate with performance-based incentives, meaning Orange County and Chapel Hill officials will each offer Wegmans $2 million if it meets a specific set of conditions over the course of five years after it opens.

Wegmans will have to have $18.1 million in real property and $8 million in personal property, earn $83 million in retail sales and maintain 185 full-time and 413 part-time jobs.

Valerie Fox, Wegmans’ spokesperson, said the downsize is an attempt to reduce the company’s ecological footprint. 

"We’re always going for approval for what would be a maximum store size, but really our store design has evolved in recent years," Fox said. "So we’re now building a smaller footprint that has enough space for all of the bells and whistles and departments that we’re known for, but can still provide the same customer experience that a larger store would."

Fox said the delay was caused when permitting took longer than it did with other locations. She said since Wegmans typically only opens two or three stores a year, officials decided to postpone the Chapel Hill opening and focus on the opening of other stores.

The addition of Wegmans is also expected to add over 3,200 vehicles to surrounding roads daily, but the N.C. Department of Transportation District Engineer Chuck Edwards said Wegmans is working to mitigate the anticipated traffic impact. 

Edwards said Wegmans is required to pay and construct certain road improvements, including additional turn lanes at intersections and modifications to traffic signals, as a condition of their development approval. 

Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger said Wegmans could not only be one of the biggest sales tax producers in the entire county, but it could also attract people from other areas.

“All of the (Wegmans) have given back to communities through partnerships and donations and infusing resources back into communities where they are involved," Hemminger said. "So we saw that as a great opportunity to also lure some customers from outside of our region to come into Chapel Hill and Orange County to shop, and it would be on a major corridor, so it lends itself to people who are traveling back and forth to stop there to purchase prepared foods."

Brantley said the proposed Durham-Orange light rail system will have a stop near the Wegmans, so Durham residents might be encouraged to come into Chapel Hill to shop at the store. 

Steve Brantley, director of Orange County Economic Development, said the project, which is expected to provide $1.5 million in retail tax revenue to Orange County and Chapel Hill annually, could help fund various public services.

“You’ve got the financial impact of new money coming into Chapel Hill and Orange County, which is partially property taxes on the new buildings that will be built, but mostly on retail sales tax," he said.

Wegmans is expected to have a minimum starting wage of $12 per hour for 70 percent of all employees and health insurance benefits to all full-time employees working at least 30 hours per week. 

It also has an employee scholarship program, which Fox said has awarded $115 million in college tuition assistance to more than 36,500 employees since 1984. 

Construction crews have begun to tear down the former Performance Automall.

@slesnewski

city@dailytarheel.com

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