Proponents of a new grocery store on Madison's east side, hoping to avoid a nightmarish Edgewater-type planning process, held a meeting Thursday night to invite early neighborhood input.
"We've been hearing for years that [this] would be a good site for a grocery store," said Chris Winter, a developer from Appleton, to a meeting at Grandview Commons that attracted more than 200 residents. "This should be an anchor that really sets the tone for development by driving traffic and attracting people."
The proposed (PDF) new Copps store would occupy 62,000 square feet at Grandview Commons, a modern housing development billed as "an all-inclusive living environment." Several residents expressed concerns about added traffic and parking.
But the developers explained the economic benefits of a mid-sized store -- smaller than a Woodman's, typically around 225,000 square feet, but larger than a Sentry.
"We don't want to just have people stopping for milk and bread, we want this to be your large one-stop shop," said Dan Farrell, a representative of Roundy's, which owns the Copps chain. The proposed new store could also include a pharmacy and Associated Bank branch.
The grocery store would sit within a new Town Center development at the corner of North Star Drive and Cottage Grove Road, near a proposed library that could break ground in the next two years.
Residents hammered developers on everything from the building's size to its blocky architecture. But developer Brian Munson said this critique will help shape the project.
"These are the comments we want to hear," Munson said. "We want to make this work and we'll look at everything that was said and look for ways to answer them."
Madison Ald. Lauren Cnare, who represents the area, said she supports the project, but acknowledged there is plenty of redesign needed before it can move forward.
"We have a mix of ways for people to live out here and the last piece missing is that little city aspect that includes a grocery store," Cnare said, adding that despite largely negative feedback at the meeting there has been plenty of support for the store.
Planners pitched (PDF) shielding techniques, like landscaping walls and elevation changes, to slip the large structure and parking lot into the residential area. In response to concerns about the structure's location and large surface parking lot, Munson explained that underground parking is extremely expensive and that shoppers need to see available parking for them to pull in.
Building the grocery store would require amending a Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan that currently limits the size of a grocery store in the area to 25,000 square feet.
"We've been trying for small retail, but for this new urbanism dream to work we need that large retailer and 25,000 square feet just isn't realistic, especially in this economic environment," Cnare said. "There has been large consensus about building a grocery store, we just need to make it fit in the overall plan."
Developers will make their first official pitch to city officials next Wednesday at the Urban Design Commission at 4:30 p.m.