CORNELIUS, N.C. -- The conversion of the closed Lowe s Foods in Cornelius into a worldwide specialty food store is on hold, according to Harris Teeter officials.

While it may eventually happen, company officials said last week they now are considering all options for the 49,000-square-foot building on Kenton Place.

The saga began about two months ago, when Harris Teeter acquired a number of Charlotte-area Lowe s Foods stores, including the Cornelius store on Kenton Place, as well as former Lowe s in Huntersville and Davidson. At the time, Harris Teeter officials said they expected the Cornelius and Huntersville sites to be converted to a new innovative format featuring a worldwide variety of wine, beer, specialty foods and other selected merchandise.

At the Huntersville Eastfield Road site, conversion work is going on inside the vacant store; however, in Cornelius, with no work inside or outside the store and a large sign indicating the site is available, speculation arose that Harris Teeter changed it mind about the future of the building.

Because the specialty store is a new concept for Harris Teeter, the company is still developing and finalizing design plans, said Communication Manager Catherine Reuhl. We also decided to begin work on and open the Huntersville alternative-format store before turning attention to the design work for the Kenton Place property.

Cornelius Planning Director Karen Floyd also confirmed this week that no requests for construction or building permits from Harris Teeter have been received by the town.

At the same time, however, the Providence Commercial Real Estate Group has placed a large Site Available / 49,000 square feet sign in front of the property and their website states that Harris Teeter is now subleasing a former Lowe s Foods box at Kenton Place in Cornelius after taking the store over from Lowes in June 2012. This is a rare anchor opportunity in the Lake Norman area.

Meanwhile, the former Lowe s store in Davidson at Renaissance Square, near Poplar Tent Road has reopened as a full-service Harris Teeter. In Huntersville, there is a sign atop the Eastfield Road location indicating something exciting is coming soon, and there are signs of work being done inside; however, the Providence Group also is attempting to sublease 16,800 square feet at the same spot, indicating Harris Teeter may be subdividing this former Lowe s location.

Further complicating the situation in Cornelius is an adjacent church that has expressed interest in the site. A senior administrator with Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville said the church has an interest in the Lowe s site but has to respect the property owner s relationship with Harris Teeter, which now has the lease.

Under the terms of the agreement announced June 1, Harris Teeter acquired 10 Lowe s Foods locations in the central Carolinas, including the Cornelius store.

At the time, supermarket experts as well as local shoppers found it surprising Harris Teeter would open a supermarket less than a half-mile from their Regency Village store off N.C. 73. However, when plans to open a worldwide specialty store at the Cornelius site were revealed, those concerns diminished.

Two months later, with no design plans in place and the entire store up for sublease, the future of the site remains uncertain.

Harris Teeter will continue to evaluate all opportunities for Kenton Place, Reuhl said.

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