German-based grocery chain Lidl could open its first store in the Greater Lehigh Valley once it obtains approvals and a highway occupancy permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
The site is the former Gilboy Ford vacant lot at the intersection of MacArthur and Eberhardt roads in Whitehall Township.
Steve Cihylik, a commercial broker for Hanna Frederick Commercial of South Whitehall Township, is representing the Gilboy Ford property owners and said township commissioners gave the project preliminary final approval Monday night.
The state DEP permitting is far along and approvals from PennDOT are about 90 percent complete, Cihylik said.
The development will retool the intersection at Eberhardt and MacArthur roads with two left southbound lands and one northbound land, Cihylik said.
“This is a major safety improvement over the current intersection,” he said. “The intersection is very dangerous.”
Lidl plans to build a 37,500-square-foot store on the property, which is nearly five acres, Cihylik said.
While he declined to disclose specific plans for any stores in the U.S., a company spokesperson said Lidl is preparing a number of sites throughout Pennsylvania.
“We are still very early on in the expansion,” said William Harwood, spokesman for Lidl US in Arlington, Va. “We don’t have any stores open yet in the U.S. We are laying the foundation, actively preparing a number of sites. We are working at having the first stores open no later than 2018.”
The company has more than 10,000 stores across Europe and has three regional headquarters and distribution centers under construction in several states. It also established real estate teams in offices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, he said.
“We are pursuing sites at the moment,” Harwood said. “We have fixed criteria for sites.”
These include convenient locations and places that allow the company to build stand-alone stores, Harwood said.
Since the store will be located off two state roads, MacArthur Road and Eberhart Road, the approval process takes time, said Mayor Ed Hozza in a statement.
The Township of Whitehall Traffic Impact Advisory Committee has had the intersection of MacArthur Road and Eberhart Road on the priority list for many years, Hozza said. The public/private partnership that will be undertaken with Lidl and Whitehall will enable this intersection to be improved, he said.
The planned improvements include two southbound turn lanes from Eberhart to MacArthur Road and a designated lane to access St. John’s UCC Church at Mickley’s or Northbound MacArthur Road. Eberhart Road improvements will take care of lingering Highway Occupancy Permits as well as a new signalized intersection at Seventh Street and Eberhart Road.