FULTON, NY – City of Fulton residents got their first peak at the proposed ALDI Food Store layout during the Common Council public hearing Tuesday as councilors approved a special permit to use the former Nestle’s site as a grocery store.
The special use application submitted by ALDI Inc. for construction of a 17,600 square foot food store at the corner of South Fourth and Fay streets was approved by the Fulton Common Council.
The special permit paves one more step of the way for the discount grocery retailer to bring a defunct corner of the former Nestle’s property back to life.
The scope of the project was laid out for councilors and residents during an overview presented by ALDI Inc.’s civil site engineer Bergmann Associates project manager Kurt Charland.
“Prior to ALDI starting construction there are existing buildings that will be razed and debris removed from the site,” Charland said.
The store would be located on 2.2 acres of the approximately 24-acre parcel.
An attorney for property owner Edward Palmer said during the meeting that the pending deal is an outright buy, with ALDI purchasing the proposed acreage from his client.
Charland said there would be landscaping and screen plantings as a buffer between the store and its residential neighbors, LED site lighting and standard ALDI signage.
While the original plan called for an entrance from Route 481 with the main entrance at the South Fifth and Fay Streets intersection, the New York State Department of Transportation has nixed traffic access from the state route.
Charland said that will make South Fifth Street the store’s only entrance and exit.
A public hearing which preceded the vote garnered some opposition from local grocers and overall support from residents.
West First Street grocers John Struppler, owner of Struppler’s Sure Fine Supermarket and John Hart, Save-A-Lot franchisee, both spoke to councilors about what an ALDI Food Store would mean to their businesses.
“This isn’t just somebody crying, ‘Oh there’s more competition,'” Struppler explained. “We’ve got competition. We already have two budget floor plans – you have Walmart low pricing and you have Save-A-Lot, and then you have the conventional floor plans like Price Chopper and myself.”
Then he added, “We beat each other to death every day.”
Tim Doyle, a Fulton resident for 50 years, said he recalls a time when there were many grocery stores throughout the city.
“Nestle’s is a great spot,” he said. “I would love to see the eyesore gone. Nestle’s isn’t going to reopen. We’ve got to get rid of it. When you come in to town you’re going to see a nice new grocery store, and that’s nothing but positive.”
Noting that local grocers would face competition, Doyle added, “Struppler’s is top notch. He’s not going to lose a person, I think. He’s got a great operation – same as Save-A-Lot.”
County Legislator Frank Castiglia said 75 percent of the people he has talked to favor bringing an ALDI Food Store to the south east quadrant of the city.
Charland said ALDI Inc. is waiting for Palmer to finish site demolition and would like to begin construction on the new store by summertime for completion before the end of this year.
One resident asked Charland, “Are all the existing Nestle’s buildings coming down?”
He responded that all the buildings east of Fay Street and between South Fourth and South Fifth Streets would be demolished and removed before ALDI’s takes possession.
“I’m not sure if everything east of there, all the buildings are coming down before this property start,” the project manager said. “Everything is being abated and it looks as though the buildings are being demo’ed from the rear. I would assume the majority of the buildings would be down.”
He noted that the overhead walkway spanning Fay Street would also be removed.
As a manufacturing site with buildings more than 100 years old, one resident questioned the integrity of the soil and any potential for the site to be declared a brownfield.
“I believe all of that is being taken care of by the existing property owner,” Charland said, “so, all of the environmental – they are in the process of abating the building right now for asbestos.”
Mayor Ron Woodward worked at the Nestle’s plant until the last day the doors closed in 2003. “We did a lot of excavation and a lot of clean up,” he said. “They remediated well into Fay Street. They took care of a tremendous amount.”
Councilors voted 5-0 to approve the special permit application, with Councilor Thomas Kenyon absent.
In a December press release announcing its plan to open 650 new stores across the country, ALDI said since opening its first store in 1976 it has had steady growth.
“Today, ALDI has nearly 1,300 stores across 32 states and employs more than 18,000 people, making it the 25th largest grocer in the nation according to Supermarket News,” the company stated. “More than 25 million customers each month benefit from the company’s simple and streamlined approach to grocery retailing. Additionally, ALDI has a strong track record as an employer of choice, offering its employees generous compensation, including benefits, which are above industry standard.”
Woodward said the next step would be the consideration to rezone the entire former Nestle’s parcel from manufacturing to a mix of commercial and residential use.