Although the company has not provided official confirmation, Aldi, a discount supermarket with locations across East Tennessee, has submitted a site plan for a new store to be located at the former United Community Bank property on the corner of Highway 321 and Highland Park Drive.
Amber Scott, assistant city administrator with Lenoir City, said Aldi plans are to raze the current bank building and redesign the lot.
“They will be tearing down the existing what was the United Community Bank building and then building the Aldi’s fresh, so they will be building an entirely new building for Aldi’s,” Scott said, noting that the addition of new businesses “drives competition between stores.”
Mayor Tony Aikens said he was pleased that an Aldi location was being planned for Lenoir City. He said competition also helps keep prices low for local customers.
“Obviously, we’re always excited about new businesses coming to Lenoir City,” Aikens said. “Certainly, they’re no exception, and we’re excited that they’ve chosen Lenoir City, and we’ll help them in any way possible to succeed.”
Erica Hoey, a spokeswoman for Aldi, said although she could not discuss specifics about a new grocery in Lenoir City, typical Aldi stores feature about 10,000 square feet of floor space inside the market, with four to five aisles, checkout space, open carton displays and a shopping cart rental system in front.
Aldi is in the middle of a five-year plan to add 650 new locations across the nation, which will bring the total number of stores to 2,000 by 2018, Hoey wrote in an email correspondence. The company plans to boost store openings to an average of 130 per year.
She said Aldi chooses store locations based on numerous factors, including costs, population, traffic and surrounding competition.
“We want to be conveniently based where ALDI shoppers are located,” she wrote in the email. “Rising demand for ALDI is fueling significant expansion as growing numbers of smart shoppers are discovering that they can save time and money at ALDI without sacrificing quality.”
The addition of Aldi will give local shoppers “another option” for buying groceries, Scott said.
“I personally love Aldi,” she said. “I love the idea behind it. I love the idea of putting a quarter in to the get the grocery cart. It incentives people to not leave the cart in the parking lot.”
Other discount grocery stores in Lenoir City include Dollar General Market on Highway 321 and UGO on East Broadway Street in the Martel community. Save-A-Lot, which was previously open on Bon Street, closed unexpectedly in 2012.
According to a property transaction record in the Loudon County Register of Deeds office, an entity called Lenoir City Partners purchased the former bank property from UCB Tennessee Properties for $1.4 million.
Steve Hurst, UCB regional president of East Tennessee, said the bank had “multiple parties” interested in the property, in part, because of the site’s numerous entry points. He said that to his knowledge the property was the only site along Highway 321 that includes three curb cuts, which are flattened access ramps leading into the parking lot.
“There’s very few tracts of land that has those features to it,” Hurst said, noting that the site was a highly valued commodity.
“It is absolutely, and that’s why we were able to sell it in a fairly reasonable time frame,” Hurst said.
UCB has been in the process of consolidating its locations in Loudon County after acquiring MoneyTree Corporation, the parent company of First National Bank, in 2015.
Lenoir City Schools recently closed on a $400,000 purchase of UCB’s location on Broadway Street in downtown Lenoir City, and Board of Education officials plan to begin moving school services and offices into the building. UCB plans to transition its bank services to the Medical Park Drive location.
Hurst said UCB has six employees remaining at the bank on Broadway.
“We would anticipate within a year with attrition we would be able to place those at our other locations,” he said.
On the horizon
In addition to Aldi, Panda Express, which has a nearby location in Turkey Creek, also recently submitted a site plan for approval in Lenoir City.
Scott said the new restaurant will be located next to the new SunTrust bank building in the burgeoning retail space in front of Food City.
“It really has,” Scott said about growth at the new shopping center, which now includes Starbucks, We’re Cooking All American Grill, other retail stores and a dentist office. “We’re very pleased with that area, and we expect it will continue to grow as well.”
Aikens said he anticipated more businesses and retailers will express interest in the Highway 321 and the Town Creek Center in the future.
“I think it says something for Lenoir City to get those chain restaurants again,” Aikens said about Panda Express. “I think competition is good thing. Certainly, the population is there to support the restaurant.”
Site plans for Aldi and Panda Express will come before Lenoir City Regional Planning Commission for approval Tuesday. The meeting is set for 6 p.m.
Ingles is also working to construct a new supermarket beside the current building and renovate the property.
The company has not provided city officials with a final completion date, Scott said.
Michael Bobo, president of the Loudon County Chamber of Commerce, said the new Aldi could make a “huge difference” in giving residents a “lower price point” for buying groceries.
He said he was encouraged by numerous examples of current and future developments that are now taking shape in the county.
“I’m pleased to see the growth and the fact that we’re moving dirt in Lenoir City and other parts of Loudon County,” Bobo said.