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Ben Mikesell | The Journal Gazette
The Aldi store on South Anthony Boulevard is one of the discount grocer’s three Fort Wayne locations.

Aldi drops plan to build fourth store

Chain walks away from deal to build on West Jefferson

Aldi isn’t all in after all.

Sturges Development Group inked a purchase agreement several months ago with the German discount grocery’s U.S. division. Every indication was that the company would build a 17,000-square-foot store at a 3.5-acre site on Fort Wayne’s southwest side, next to Stein Mart on West Jefferson Boulevard.

But it wasn’t to be.

Aldi officials said unspecified factors led to the company’s decision to spurn one of Fort Wayne’s busiest retail corridors.

“Unfortunately, there are many variables that may impact plans for a particular store location,” the company said in a statement sent to The Journal Gazette late Thursday.

“Fort Wayne is an important market for Aldi, where we already have three existing stores, and we are continuing to pursue other sites in Fort Wayne so that we can be conveniently located for shoppers in the community.”

Brad Sturges, president of Sturges Development Group, said Aldi’s pullout is “very unprofessional, to say the least.”

“They had approval from the city and then backed out at the last minute,” Sturges said. “We spent a lot of money getting that site ready, but we were going to do it anyway because we own the property.”

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission approved the Aldi store in November.

“We were all ready to go,” Sturges said. “It’s disappointing, but maybe something else will work at that location. I’m sure it will.”

Sturges tried to sell the land on other occasions, but issues with flooding and similar concerns were always a snag.

So, the developer installed retention ponds, addressed drainage issues and made other infrastructure improvements – only to have Aldi walk away.

Locally, Aldi operates two stores on Lima Road and one on South Anthony Boulevard. Aldi has nearly 1,300 U.S. stores in 32 states, including 63 in Indiana. In recent years, the grocer has added up to 80 stores a year.

The privately owned discount grocery, whose U.S. division is headquartered in Batavia, Illinois, sells fresh meat and produce, canned goods, frozen food and dairy, bakery and paper items. The chain cuts costs by keeping a low number of store employees and having customers bag their own purchases.

Sturges believes the grocery would have fit well on West Jefferson Boulevard. He’s still shaking his head over the eleventh-hour decision.

“This is not something that happens often,” he said.