City Prepares for Next Phase of Oberlin Crossing Shopping Center Development Following ALDI Opening

The grocery chain ALDI opened a new location just outside Oberlin City limits Jan. 19. The store, located at 14885 State Route 58, is the first development in the planned Oberlin Crossing shopping center. The 120,000-square-foot property is being developed by Carnegie Management and Development Corporation and will eventually host retail, restaurant, and office spaces.

Oberlin Business Partnership Director Janet Haar is excited about the opportunity for Oberlin to benefit from region-wide patronage of the ALDI. Before the Oberlin store opened, the closest ALDI was 6.5 miles north of town. With a closer option, Haar expects the new site to draw customers from Norwalk, Wakeman, Wellington, Grafton, and LaGrange.

“A positive way to look at the presence of ALDIs in Oberlin is that people who might not have visited Oberlin will visit ALDI because of ALDI’s name recognition and promotions,” Haar said. “Therefore, we can use social media and other platforms to invite people who visit ALDI to come downtown — only a short distance away — to visit our other stores and dine in our restaurants.”

Senior Director of Oberlin Shansi Ted Samuel has been shopping at ALDI for decades and, prior to the Oberlin location’s grand opening, carpooled to Amherst for his shopping. He is excited by the availability of avocados for $0.49, noting that this price point is much cheaper than other places nearby. As an Oberlin resident, he is glad for the convenient store location — but noted that people without cars may have difficulties getting there.

“I am lucky to have a car,” Samuel wrote in an email to the Review. “I feel for people who can’t get to the new ALDI because it’s fairly inaccessible by foot or bicycle.”

The City recognizes this inaccessibility concern and is currently working to develop a solution. Last year, City Council allocated $717,566 to the Public Works Department to develop, design, and construct a means for residents to walk or bike to the shopping center. The project, “State Route 58 South — Active Transportation Improvements,” is currently in contract negotiations with Toole Design Group.

The contract would require the firm to navigate zoning laws — a matter that is complicated by much of the development existing outside City limits. It would also require that the firm find opportunities for grants to subsidize the development cost, research, propose, and design options for safe pedestrian and bicycle access — among various other tasks once the construction begins. Public Works Director Jeff Baumann expects the first phase, “Alternatives Analysis,” to begin in March and construction on the project to start in 2024. “We don’t know that the best solution is to essentially just build a sidewalk on the east side of [State Route 58] down to ALDI. That doesn’t get one to Walmart or any of the other businesses,” Baumann said. “Not all of the project area is in the City limits. Some of it’s in New Russia Township, and some of it’s in Pittsfield Township. So there are jurisdictional issues to address. There are also potentially drainage issues to address and the relationship of any kind of sidewalk or path to the existing utilities. … We don’t want to build something that’s right next to the road because the road might need to expand. And generally speaking, pedestrians and cyclists don’t feel as safe if they’re walking right by the road. So there are a lot of administrative, procedural, and technical issues to consider.”

While Haar feels positive about the new development, some residents are worried about its potential impacts on local businesses and traffic. In 2021, City resident Mark Chesler and Oberlin Citizens for Responsible Development filed suit against the City of Oberlin in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas over the risk of increased traffic on State Route 58. The case is ongoing as of now, and there have been no updates since Aug. 22, 2022.

Walmart and IGA have served the Oberlin community for years, but with a third option to consider, the Review decided to conduct a price comparison between the three grocers. We selected several household goods including fruits, vegetables, meat, grains, and dairy products, and compared prices by the pound or per unit using the cheapest or store-brand products from each vendor. By building a mock shopping cart of one pound or unit of every item, we found ALDI is overall the cheapest of the three at $40.85, followed by Walmart at $44.90, then IGA at $55.84.

An important consideration is that several ALDI fruits and vegetables were only available in pre-packaged bags of two or more pounds, and were adjusted for a per-pound cost in this calculation, whereas Walmart and IGA generally had more items for sale by the pound. ALDI and IGA offer more variety in dairy-alternative products and organic goods, while Walmart has the largest selection of third-party brands. Fig.1 represents the items and costs used in this calculation. Residents looking for locally owned and -operated businesses can also purchase produce from the Oberlin Food Hub and City Fresh in addition to local farms.

Building the ALDI was phase one of the Oberlin Crossing shopping center development and Carnegie Management and Development hopes to commence phase two in 2024. With regard to the next phase, Carnegie Vice President Rustom R. Khouri III explained that the company is considering a variety of uses for the remainder of the site to accommodate several economic developments that have occurred over the last couple of years. Still, he is looking forward to potentially opening a bank branch or quick-service restaurant and moving forward with the plan to create more retail space. Khouri also spoke about the firm’s hopes and ideologies in developing the property. He explained that Carnegie has a decades-long commitment to the properties they develop, and believes they have a responsibility to create an environmentally conscious space that serves the long-term needs of the Oberlin community. He further explained that the company employs in house individuals dedicated to the management and upkeep of the property. Oberlin residents can expect more information on the Oberlin Crossing shopping center in the coming months.