Grocery store expects increase in online orders to continue

One trend grocery stores expect to continue even after the pandemic subsides is online ordering for pickup.

At the grocery store in Eagan’s Central Park Commons, Hy-Vee would like to construct a 1,200-square-foot accessory building with a canopy in the south end of its parking lot.

The building would serve as storage for pickup orders.

In the last 12 months, approximately 10 percent of trips are now online orders at Hy-Vee through its Aisles Online program.

According to the project narrative, the store went from 50 to 60 pickup orders per day to hundreds per hour during the pandemic.

The grocery story set up a temporary pickup zone in its parking lot in May 2020.

But as the pandemic dials down, the chain anticipates online ordering to continue at some level, so it would like to construct a permanent building.

“There’s a segment of the customers that don’t want to come to a big retail store and pick out groceries,” Hy-Vee Site Planning Director John Brehm said. “We are betting that this is the future of retail. We’re positioning ourselves to be in that space and be successful.”

The Eagan Advisory Planning Commission approved the request during Tuesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Jane Vanderpoel said she also found online ordering convenient.

“It appears this is a convenience that a lot of people are going to build into their lives,” Vanderpoel said.

“COVID has given us a glimpse of the future,” Commissioner Christo Jensen said.

With fewer people parking and shopping inside, the store wouldn’t need as much parking.

“It should offset the number of customers coming in, so traffic shouldn’t change,” Brehm said.

Brehm said there will be signs directing traffic to approach the pickup area to the east and to discourage traffic from driving in front of the store.

Gas station

Hy-Vee is also hoping to construct a new Fast-N-Fresh convenience store/gas station in Eagan.

Hy-Vee got approval for a gas station, convenience store and coffee shop on the northeast concern of Pilot Knob Road and Diffley Road at Hilltop Plaza from the City Council in 2020.

But, plans have been revised.

The initial plan included a Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits in the building north of the convenience store. There were also plans to construct a new commercial car wash in place of the building to the northeast.

Now the plan is to construct a Fast-N-Fresh as planned, and attract a new coffee shop to the retail center.

The liquor store and freestanding car wash are no longer in the blueprints.

The existing buildings will stay, with the coffee shop and drive-thru relocated to the northern building.

“We’re looking for a national coffee user for that structure,” Hy-Vee Director of Real Estate Phil Hoey said. “Since our approval of that original plan, we’re not able to remove and redevelop that (eastern) building. That’s why you’re seeing a new plan.”

He said Hy-Vee wanted to include the drive-thru to ensure it would attract a national coffee chain.

He said the company plans to renovate and reface the retail buildings.

“We’re bringing some new life to this center that is going to bring in and create some interest from several other users,” Hoey said.

He confirmed there’s no plan for a Hy-Vee Wine and Spirits at this time either.

The convenience store would be similar to the Hy-Vee gas station at Cedar Avenue and Dodd Boulevard in Lakeville.

The Eagan Hy-Vee is one of the only grocery stores in the metro without a convenience store/gas station in the parking lot, Hoey said.

The new Fast-N-Fresh would be a few miles to the south of Hy-Vee.

The child care center east of the gas station was never part of the redevelopment site and will remain.

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