Greenlighting continues for Trader Joe’s in Meridian Township

Zoning Board of Appeals approves variance for wall signs


THURSDAY, April 21 — Long-sought plans to bring a Trader Joe’s to Greater Lansing are moving forward as scheduled after Meridian Township officials last night approved two large signs to be attached to two walls of the unbuilt grocery store.

A memo filed last week in township records shows site plans to build a 13,500-square-foot “Trader Joe’s specialty grocery store” at 2755 Grand River Ave. in East Lansing have been approved. The former Golden Wok building on the 2-acre property was demolished last month, leaving a dirt patch in its place. And while no crews were working in the snow today, developers at Strathmore Real Estate Group said they expect the store to be ready to open by “early 2023.”

But first: Developers requested an exemption to the township’s zoning laws in order to affix two signs — rather than just one — to the northern and southern walls of the building in order to make the entrance more clearly identifiable for would-be shoppers, according to the application.

The township’s Board of Zoning Appeals unanimously approved the variance.

Developers have requested a variance to install two signs at a future Trader Joe's in East Lansing.
Developers have requested a variance to install two signs at a future Trader Joe's in East Lansing.

Being unable to install a sign above its main entranceway on the south side of the building would result in “unnecessary and unsafe vehicle patterns and frustrated customers,” the application states.

A failure to grant the variance would have also “unreasonably" prevented Trader Joe’s from using the property and interfere with its usual store branding, according to township staff memorandum.

“The specialty grocer project remains on track,” said Jacob Chappelle, project manager at Strathmore Real Estate Group. “We recently completed demolition and commenced site work.”

Chappelle told City Pulse that he is “not authorized” to disclose details of the project — including whether or not it’s actually a future Trader Joe’s. The grocery chain’s website has no mention of any new plans to construct a new store in Meridian Township or elsewhere in Greater Lansing.

Blueprints and zoning application materials filed with the township, however, clearly identify the project as the future site of a Trader Joe’s. New renderings show the full name on the signage. A banner posted out front of the construction site also uses Trader Joe’s-esque typefaces and  Township officials have also specifically named the company as the future tenants of the space.

Blueprints filed in Meridian Township records show plans for a new Trader Joe's.
Blueprints filed in Meridian Township records show plans for a new Trader Joe's.

Chappelle said his team recently met for a “pre-construction meeting” and submitted the necessary information to obtain a building permit, which he hopes to have approved “soon.” Hired contractors have also already preordered some building materials to expedite the job.

He added: “Strathmore recently completed the adjacent Red Cedar Flats mixed-use project and is looking forward to successfully opening this project in the near future. We are confident this particular grocer will be a welcome addition to Meridian Township and the region.”

Another requested zoning variance in December allowed for a 115-space parking lot to replace the adjacent strip mall on Northwind Drive. Demolition of the old Golden Wok restaurant — where the future Trader Joe’s will be — kicked off last month, reports the Lansing State Journal.

Meridian Township Planning Director Tim Schmitt said the township is now “very close” to issuing a building permit. The project also requires approval from the Ingham County Drain Commissioner’s Office. Schmitt said there’s just one “minor issue” left to resolve on that end.

Trader Joe’s is a privately held company based in California that operates stores in more than 40 states,  including Michigan locations in Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Royal Oak and Bloomfield Hills. It’s owned by families who also own a stake in Aldi, though the two companies are independent.

Strathmore’s real estate portfolio includes development projects in several states and Canada. Jacob Chappelle is the son of its owner, Scott Chappelle, who filed a failed defamation lawsuit last year against local news website East Lansing Info and its publisher, Alice Dreger, over unproven claims that its coverage of his prior business deals was both “false and defamatory.”

Although one of the defendants in that case issued a public apology to Chappelle, the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed last year by an Ingham County judge on both First Amendment grounds and because Chappelle failed to meet the legal definition of defamation against ELi.

Check back with City Pulse for continued coverage as the project moves forward.


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