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What will happen to the Lidl branch in Bear?

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A long-delayed Lidl store in Bear looks like it might be moving forward after all.

Maybe you saw it there. For around two years, a seemingly completed Lidl store at 1604 Pulaski Highway has been reminiscent of a film set or a daydreaming child: the lights are on, but no one is home.

Lidl is a German discount grocery chain that has expanded rapidly in the United States since entering the market in 2017, but has remained stagnant at around 170 locations as of 2020 for eight years. Several planned stores in the region and a distribution center in Pennsylvania were also delayed last year.

The chain has two stores in Delaware, one in Dover and one in Middletown – although its biggest competitor, German discount supermarket Aldi, continues its brisk expansion and may have a 10th Delaware location in the works.

But three locations in Delaware wasn't exactly the appeal for Lidl. The store on Route 40 in Bear became something of a local curiosity after construction was apparently completed in early 2022. The store has sat unopened since then in an empty lot that will likely also house a Taco Bell, as reported by Delaware Online/The News Journal in January.

Lidl initially blamed pandemic-era supply chain problems for the delay in opening the Bear store. But a more pressing problem appeared to be drainage.

In the fall of 2022, a New Castle County civil engineer found that Lidl's stormwater management system was not functioning properly and documented pools of water and signs of erosion near the store, a costly repair that left the store in limbo.

All permitting activities were halted for more than a year. Lidl officials declined to comment much on the opening dates or anything else.

But county records now show signs of life.

Last month, Lidl sold the adjacent property on the property to Pennsylvania Taco Bell franchisor Summerwood Corporation for $2.1 million, the Delaware Business Times reported last month. The same franchisor, Summerwood, plans to tear down and rebuild a Taco Bell in Newark's Chestnut Hill Plaza this year.

Lidl also filed county paperwork in late March to address stormwater problems found during county inspections of the Bear Lidl store. Lidl engineers said they plan to use excavators to remove the topsoil and then the stones and “re-karise” the subsoil on the site.

In plain language, that means they will retil the deep soil and remove rocks to allow the land to drain better and hopefully eliminate the puddles of water that worried county inspectors.

Lidl spokespeople are not yet ready to commit to a new expected opening date for the branch. However, they confirmed that they remain “excited to join the bear community.”

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