Danville Lowe's hasn't agreed to entrance switch

DANVILLE — Last year, Danville spent $150,000 buying commercial property to build a new Lowe's entrance that would align with an entrance to the new Meijer store across North Vermilion Street.

But the reason for that purchase could now be void, because Lowe's has not yet agreed to vacate its old entrance and accept the new one.

The city is prepared to award a bid of more than $500,000 to build the new entrance and make other improvements in that area even though Lowe's has not yet agreed to vacate its existing entrance.

David Schnelle, city engineer and urban services director, said he could not comment on why Lowe's has not yet agreed to a new North Vermilion Street entrance that would be paid for by the city and would be adjacent to its existing entrance directly onto North Vermilion Street. He said Lowe's officials would have to answer that question.

However, Schnelle said the property the city purchased in May of last year to build the new entrance had been a gas station at one time. He said it's unknown whether old fuel storage tanks exist underground, but that will be known once the city moves forward with its plans to demolish the building on the property, which was most recently a pet grooming business, Classy Critters. After demolition and remediation of any environmental issues, the city will build an entrance to that property on North Vermilion Street. Schnelle said petroleum has been identified in soil samples from the site.

In an email Monday, Natalie Turner with Lowe's public relations said that Lowe's wants to be a good neighbor and is working with local officials to provide a workable traffic solution. Turner did not comment on the environmental issues with the property for the new entrance.

"Our intention is to allow the relocation of the current entrance, and we're working on the legal details for this to occur," Turner said in the email.

The city wants the Lowe's entrance to be directly across from the entrance to the existing Tractor Supply store and new Meijer store that will open later this year, because the Illinois Department of Transportation will require a median in the middle of North Vermilion if the entrances are not aligned. Currently, the Lowe's entrance sits slightly north of the Tractor Supply entrance, and that could cause left-turn conflicts in the designated turn lane, especially with the increase in traffic expected when the Meijer store opens, according to IDOT and local officials.

The stoplight entrance at Boiling Springs Road and North Vermilion Street is the main entrance to the new Kohl's store and T.J. Maxx, which is under construction, and will also offer access to Meijer. But Meijer also will be accessible from the Tractor Supply entrance on the south end of the development. Changes also include the addition of a northbound right turn lane into the Meijer/Tractor Supply entrance. Meijer is paying $315,590 for that portion of the improvements along North Vermilion. But a median in North Vermilion would prohibit northbound traffic from using the south entrance to Lowe's and prohibit southbound traffic from using the Tractor Supply/Meijer entrance.

Schnelle said the city does not prefer a median in that spot, so city officials made moves last year to align the entrances.

In May, the city council approved purchasing from Glen Martin the Classy Critters site, 3628 N. Vermilion St., which is immediately south of Lowe's existing entrance, for the negotiated price of $150,000. Martin bought the property from Forshier Realty in 2009 for $55,000, according to Vermilion County warranty deed documents.

Tonight, the city council's public works committee will consider bids to move forward with the city's plan to demolish the building on that property, do environmental remediation and build a new entrance. The committee meets at 6 p.m. at the municipal building, 17 W. Main St., Danville. Schnelle said if Lowe's does not agree to vacate its existing entrance and accept ownership of the new entrance, then the former Classy Critters property will have a new entrance and be ready for new development, and the city will have to go ahead and build a median in the middle of North Vermilion Street.

Schnelle said Lowe's still has time to vacate its existing entrance.

Due to the uncertainty, the city sought two bid options from contractors. Three contractors submitted base bids, which includes the right turn lane into Meijer that will be paid for by Meijer. Then contractors also submitted bids for alternate A, building a median on North Vermilion Street, and alternate B, closing the existing Lowe's entrance and building a new entrance.

City administration is recommending the low bid of $509,009 submitted by Duce Construction in Champaign, which includes building a new entrance. If the city has to go with a median, Duce Construction still had the low bid of $424,380.

Meijer will reimburse the city $315,590 for the right turn lane part of the project, and Schnelle said the rest of the work will be paid for with local gas tax funds.

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