UPDATED: Aldi drops plans to build store next to Oakville Middle, Wohlwend Elementary, officials say

The+Aldi+would+be+built+to+the+right+of+the+driveway+in+this+photo%2C+facing+Telegraph+Road.+Wohlwend+Elementary+is+immediately+to+the+left+from+this+photo+angle.+Photo+by+Gloria+Lloyd.

The Aldi would be built to the right of the driveway in this photo, facing Telegraph Road. Wohlwend Elementary is immediately to the left from this photo angle. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

By Gloria Lloyd
Staff Reporter
news3@callnewpapers.com

Gaines doesn’t think district will try to sell property again

Updated Sept. 29 with statement from Aldi.

Aldi has dropped plans to build a store next to two schools on Telegraph Road in Oakville due to the potential “costs and restrictions” of the project, Mehlville School District officials announced Monday.
The Board of Education voted in June to sell 1.28 acres on the campus of Oakville Middle School and Wohlwend Elementary to Aldi to build the grocery store, which would have been Oakville’s first Aldi.
“Restrictions and requirements by the county apparently pushed the cost of building a store higher than Aldi wanted to go,” Mehlville Communications Director John Wolff said.
Some residents, including Wohlwend parents and neighbors bordering the site, objected to the sale due to concerns about traffic and safety. But board members said they weighed every concern during real-estate negotiations with Aldi the last two years. They could have approved the sale in a closed session, but chose to open the vote to the public.
Aldi pulled out of the contract last Friday, sending the district a letter that invoked several contingencies built into the contract to back out of the $800,000 sale. The district announced the decision on Facebook Monday.

In a statement to the Call, however, Aldi declined to say why it backed out of the Oakville site, while also not ruling out a search for another site as part of its “aggressive” nationwide push to expand from 1,700 stores to 2,500 stores by 2022.

“While we have decided not to move forward with the site in Oakville, we will continue to explore opportunities in the area, as well as multiple other markets from coast to coast,” Aldi said. “ALDI has been in the St. Louis area for more than 30 years – we are proud to be part of this community and excited about the future.”
To build its store, Aldi faced high costs for grading land the district considers “unusable,” which may have contributed to its decision to back out, board President Samantha Stormer said.
Perhaps more dauntingly, the company also had to navigate approval from several layers of county government, including the Department of Planning, the Planning Commission and then the County Council, where its fate would be decided by 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville.
Superintendent Chris Gaines had met with a team from Aldi a few weeks before they sent the letter spiking the sale. Store officials had started working with the county on the zoning process and seemed positive about how it was going, he noted.
At that point, they had already met with Trakas.
At the time the board approved the sale, Stormer said, “It gives the community the opportunity to decide if they want an Aldi’s there or not. We’ve seen businesses wanting to go somewhere, and the County Council will hold it up for whatever reason. So selling the property doesn’t guarantee that an Aldi will be built there.”
Trakas was unavailable for comment Monday, but at the time of the sale, he was still undecided on the Aldi. His wife, Lori, sat on the Mehlville board when the plan first came up for discussion in 2015.
The councilman said he was already receiving phone calls and email feedback both for and against the Aldi from people throughout Oakville and the school district, and the feedback leaned to the negative.
Gaines didn’t believe the district will try to sell the land to another store or come up with a Plan B since the Aldi sale is off the table.
The board had announced it would use money from Aldi to buy the house next to Oakville Elementary to build a parking lot.
That plan could still be in play, along with other purchases around the district’s other landlocked schools, Gaines said.
But the district has no plans to buy the house next to the property that Aldi was also going to buy, he noted.
Especially if the project died because of county restrictions, “Would it not be the same for somebody else? I’m kind of thinking we’re probably just done,” Gaines said.