Dillons proposes tearing down Lawrence’s Massachusetts Street store and replacing it with larger building

Dillons’ parent company, Kroger, plans to raze its current 1960s-era store at 1740 Mass. and replace it with a cutting-edge grocery that should be open by the end of 2011.

A new Dillons grocery store is slated to come to south Massachusetts Streets.

A spokeswoman with Dillons confirmed Friday afternoon that Dillons’ parent company, Kroger, plans to raze its current 1960s-era store at 1740 Mass. and replace it with a cutting-edge grocery that should be open by the end of 2011.

“This store not only will be a model store for our Dillons division, but when it comes to energy efficiency and other features, it will be a model store for the entire company,” said Sheila Lowrie, a Dillons spokeswoman.

The new store will be about 10,000 square feet larger than the existing 35,000-square-foot space. New features will include:

• An indoor/outdoor dining area with wireless Internet.

• A Starbucks coffee shop.

• A Chinese deli.

• A sushi bar.

• A sandwich grill.

• An organic foods section.

• An expanded pharmacy with a drive-through lane.

• A special parking area for bikes and scooters.

The current store will have to be closed to accommodate the construction. Lowrie said pending city approval, the current store would close near the first of the year. Current store employees will be offered positions in other Lawrence Dillons stores for the approximately one-year period that the Massachusetts Street store is closed.

The new store will have about 40 additional employees. Lowrie said current employees were told of the plans on Friday.

“Everyone is very excited about it,” Lowrie said. “It has been something that has been talked about for a long time.”

The store was built in 1960, and hasn’t had a major renovation since 1974 when part of the building suffered a fire, Lowrie said. She said the new store will be built on the current property owned by Dillons and won’t require an expansion into the adjacent neighborhood.

“As we design the store, we want to take into consideration the neighborhood and nearby downtown,” Lowrie said.

Dillons is hosting a meeting for area neighborhood associations at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Central Junior High, 1400 Mass. The company plans to unveil renderings of the store and answer questions about the proposal.

Thus far, some neighborhood leaders said they’re receiving positive feedback about the proposal.

“I think it is welcome news,” said Phil Collison, treasurer of the East Lawrence Neighborhood Association. “It will be real interesting to see all the plans, but it definitely is good that they’re showing an interest in making that a high-quality store. It is important to have a grocery store there.”

Lowrie was unable to release details about how large of an investment the new store would be for Dillons, but she said it was a multi-million dollar project. The store is the latest in a series of large projects that have been announced in late 2010, including a new warehouse for Berry Plastics, a new East Hills manufacturing plant by Plastikon Industries, a proposed seven-story office/retail/apartment building at Ninth and New Hampshire, and plans for a $20 million hydroelectric power plant on the Kansas River.

“We certainly have some momentum, and that creates a psychology that causes other businesses to investigate making their own investments in the city,” said Tom Kern, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.

The Dillons project will require some City Hall approvals. Lowrie said the company already has begun discussions with city planners and hopes to start the approval process immediately.