The Gretna City Council on Wednesday approved the site plan for a grocery store and gas station in a shopping center on the north side of the West Bank Expressway that has long been rumored as the site for a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market.
Frank Petruziello, president of Columbus, Ohio-based developer Skilken, showed the audience at the council meeting a rendering of a tan 42,311-square-foot grocery store with a drive-up pharmacy window and the word “Tenant” emblazoned across the front of the building.
Petruziello, however, said he couldn’t tell the room of interested residents — many of whom had qualms about plans to leave the rear access to the site open — which store is coming. The tenant, he explained after the council approved the plan and several needed variances, prefers to make its own announcements.
Councilman Joe Marino called the mystery tenant “the worst- kept secret in the city of Gretna” but said the council wasn’t in a position to say what will go into the shopping center between Evergreen Drive and the Gov. Hall Street canal.
The shopping center is home to Pho Tau Bay restaurant, among other tenants.
Petruziello said that if building permits are secured, construction could begin in February and the store could open by the end of 2015.
Several residents on 11th Street spoke out against leaving the rear access to the property open, saying they are worried about increased traffic.
Jamie Burmaster said the neighborhood children play ball on the corner lot.
“This is highly upsetting to all of the residents along 11th Street,” she said. “Our voices were not heard.”
Petruziello said the back access is a convenience for customers from the neighborhood and that he doesn’t think the store will draw much through traffic through that neighborhood.
Marino said no delivery trucks will be allowed to use the rear entrance, and that the city will monitor the traffic situation and can take steps to ease the traffic if a problem develops.
Mayor Belinda Constant said this is the third developer to look at the property, and none of the potential users have been amenable to closing the back entrance.
“They’ve met and accommodated every request that we’ve made on this project, including changing the façade,” Marino said of the mystery tenant. “To say this is going to be a significant improvement is an understatement … and we’re looking forward to this development.”
Mary Lou Eichhorn said she was disappointed that the city could have an entire conversation about the arrival of a new grocery store and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood without ever mentioning the tenant’s name.