Updated: County Market, Ace to anchor Carriage Center site
UPDATED 6 p.m. Tuesday with remarks from Rich Niemann Jr.
CHAMPAIGN — New County Market and Ace Hardware stores will anchor the redevelopment of Carriage Center on South Neil Street, the president and CEO of Niemann Foods announced Tuesday.
Rich Niemann Jr. said his company plans to build a 42,000-square-foot County Market supermarket on the 17-acre site that’s now home to Ford City Ford-Lincoln and Worden Martin Buick-GMC.
A separate, 10,000-square-foot Ace Hardware store, also owned by Niemann Foods, will be built north of County Market, with both stores facing Neil Street.
Also in the mix: a 3,000-square-foot County Market Express convenience store that will go up south and east of the supermarket, along Devonshire Drive.
“We’re so very excited to kick this off today,” Niemann Jr. said. “This is a good-sized project for us.”
The stores — expected to be completed sometime in 2014 — would employ about 150 people altogether, said Gerry Kettler, director of consumer affairs for Quincy-based Niemann Foods.
Kettler said the overall project is estimated to cost more than $10 million.
Ford City Ford-Lincoln announced in November that it plans to relocate to a new 56,000-square-foot building at 701 W. Marketview Drive, C, possibly by Oct. 1, 2013.
About the same time, Illini Nissan plans to move from Savoy to a new 25,000-square-foot building at 615 W. Marketview Drive, C — just east of Ford City.
Worden Martin Buick-GMC is considering moving to the Illini Nissan building in Savoy, once the Nissan dealership makes its move.
The imminent departure of the dealerships from Carriage Center made the 17-acre site ripe for redevelopment.
The Niemann Foods project will occupy only about 6 of those acres, leaving 11 acres up for grabs.
Four lots on Neil Street, in front of the County Market store, are available for development, as are 4 acres north of Ace Hardware and an acre south of County Market, according to Tim Harrington of Coldwell Banker Commercial Devonshire Realty.
He and colleague Matt Wavering marketed the Carriage Center site on behalf of developers George Shapland and Bergen Parkhill.
Harrington said the land along Neil Street is ripe for banks, sit-down restaurants, fast-food outlets and other businesses “looking for traffic.”
The lot to the south, on Devonshire Drive, could lend itself to office use, and the large tract north of Ace Hardware could prove attractive for a hotel or major retailer, he said.
Harrington underscored the importance of County Market to the overall development project.
“A 24-hour grocery changes the dynamics and draws in other retailers,” he said.
The Neil Street store would be the sixth County Market in Champaign-Urbana. Others are at 2901 W. Kirby Ave., C; 1914 W. Glenn Park Drive, C; 312 W. Kirby Ave., C; 331 E. Stoughton St., C; and 1819 S. Philo Road, U.
“Champaign has been a great community for us to do business in — a city that’s wonderful to work with — and we wanted to continue to grow and try to provide the best shopping experience” for area consumers, Kettler said.
The store is expected to draw shoppers from a 1.5-mile radius, as well as those who live farther away but regularly use Neil Street.
The County Market closest to the new site is the Kirby Avenue store, about eight blocks to the north. That store — a former Jerry’s IGA — was converted to a County Market in 2010. That location will remain open during the two-year period the South Neil site is developed. But the company anticipates consolidating the two stores operations sometime in 2014, Kettler told The News-Gazette.
Although some local County Markets sell fuel, the County Market Express planned for South Neil will be the first one in this area, Kettler said.
Niemann Foods, founded in 1917, operates stores in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. In February, it plans to open its 100th store, a County Market in downtown Springfield, Kettler said.
Among the store brands operated by Niemann Foods are County Market, Save-A-Lot, Ace Hardware, Pet Supplies Plus and County Market Express.
Niemann Foods is an associate-owned company that employs about 5,000.
News-Gazette reporter Christine des Garennes contributed to this report.