Hannaford focus back on downtown Brandon

BRANDON — The Hannaford Bros. supermarket chain has purchased the building it occupies in downtown Brandon, which raises the possibility of store expansion and puts to rest an effort to build a Hannaford store south of town.
Land transfer records obtained by The Reporter confirm that Hannaford purchased the building and 10.35 acres on Supermarket Drive next to the Rite Aid pharmacy for $2.9 million on Aug. 2.
Brandon ’93 Associates I.P. in Morristown, N.J., had owned the property since November 1993, when it was rented by the Grand Union supermarket.
The Reporter has learned that now there is a chance that Hannaford will try to purchase the adjacent Wintergreen Residential Care Home in order to expand the parking lot along with the building.
Wintergreen owner Mary Jensen confirmed in a phone interview Monday that Hannaford is interested in her property, which encompasses 1.6 acres and stretches from Union Street all the way back to the Hannaford building. However, Jensen said that nothing has been signed and that she is waiting to see what Hannaford wants to do.
“The problem is, Hannaford is trying to decide if it’s feasible for them to acquire this property,” she said. “We really don’t have a clue, really, on what they want to do. We’ll know more next week.”
Jensen added that part of Hannaford’s decision hinges upon whether the company can secure the necessary permits to move forward with any expansion.
Jensen bought the property and opened the residential senior care home in July 2009. She has since also purchased a building in Park Village, site of the former Brandon Training School.
“Our plans are to move to the training school,” she said. “We bought that building over a year ago not even knowing Hannaford wanted our property.”
While Hannaford spokesperson Eric Blom confirmed the purchase of the supermarket building, he would not comment on the store’s future plans for it.
“For competitive reasons, we don’t discuss our strategy about why we decide to purchase versus lease specific properties,” he said in an e-mail received Monday from Hannaford corporate headquarters in Scarborough, Maine.
All of this comes five months after developer Bill McCabe pulled out of a long-delayed and contentious plan to build a 36,000-square-foot Hannaford supermarket called Brandon Plaza south of downtown. McCabe appealed a decision by the Brandon Development Review Board to approve a smaller version of the project, only to have the state Environmental Court throw the case back to the DRB for incomplete explanations of its decisions more than a year after the appeal was filed. In May of this year, Hannaford pulled out of the project saying too much time had passed and the plan was effectively dead.
Hannaford had moved into the former Grand Union building in 2009 and leased the property.  Despite the urgings of smart growth and downtown advocates to stay in that central location, Hannaford repeatedly stated it was a temporary move until the larger Brandon Plaza store was built.
The biggest smart growth advocate, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, had been at the forefront of those urging the supermarket to stay in the walkable downtown and executive director Paul Bruhn testified before the DRB to that effect. The Preservation Trust’s mission is to help Vermont municipalities maintain vibrant downtowns and to fight sprawl. To that end, the trust purchased an option on an acre of land behind the supermarket in 2010 leaving open the possibility of expanding the store where it sits. All told, the trust spent $6,000 on the original option and two renewals over the last two and a half years.
“Our goal has always been to help Hannaford expand and invest in this downtown store,” Bruhn said. “We’ve always been hopeful. We always hoped that if they abandoned the out-of-town site that they would expand at their current location in Brandon.”
Lee Kahrs can be reached at [email protected].

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