Aldi outlines plan for expanding store

JOHNSTOWN – The Aldi grocery chain says a proposed expansion and renovation to its 15-year-old market will allow it to increase its line of fresh products while also matching the company’s next-generation prototype of energy-efficient stores.

The discount grocer’s director of real estate, Benjamin Vesper, told the city Planning Board on Thursday the company wants to build a 2,210-square-foot addition and undertake several other improvements to modernize the space, which opened in 1997.

“There’s a great demand on behalf of our customers who want fresh products, so an expansion would certainly give us the ability to service some of those demands and bring fresh products into the store,” Vesper said.

The project would cost about $1.2 million and give the building a total footprint of about 18,000 square feet, said Bruce Heberer, the city’s chief code-enforcement officer and fire chief.

A public hearing will be held next month, and if the project is approved, construction could begin before the end of winter.

It was not known whether the store would remain open through the renovation. Vesper referred reporters’ questions to Aldi’s corporate office in South Windsor, Conn.

The expansion would require extending the south end of the building, creating a new entrance 13 feet from the existing one. Inside, customers would find open ceilings and new, modern concrete floors to replace tiles, for a warehouse-club look. The larger space would allow for a larger display area to accommodate more fresh produce.

Refrigerator space would be expanded, and the system would be more energy efficient, right down to the lighting and coolant used, Vesper said. The project also would include new security and fire-alarm systems.

“We’re going to invest over a million dollars into our existing site, and it shows all this long-term commitment to the city of Johnstown,” Vesper said. “It’s been a great place for us to do business.”

The plan would require eliminating 16 parking spaces, leaving the store with 96 – more than the 72 required by city code, Vesper said.

Planning Board members seemed enthusiastic about the project, appointing themselves the lead agency for the environmental-impact study and scheduling a public hearing for their next meeting, at 4 p.m. Feb. 12. The meeting originally would have been held Feb. 5, but officials pushed it back in hopes of having the environmental and county Planning Board’s review finished in time to potentially vote on site-plan approval that day.

A building permit will be issued within two weeks of the Planning Board’s approval, Heberer said.

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