Bowling Green is in line to be Meijer’s southernmost location.

The Michigan-based, family-owned grocery chain has 199 stores in five states: Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. Its current southernmost store is in Richmond, but this month the company signed a “contract to purchase” property in the Gary Farms area near Campbell Lane, Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi said.

“Essentially that holds the property for us ... while we do our due diligence on the site,” Guglielmi said. “After that is done ... and we get a green light, we will purchase the property and then build the store.”

Guglielmi said he didn’t know how long that process – which will include looking at any environmental concerns and any needed road improvements – could take. Construction, once it begins, typically takes a year.

“I’ve not been given any opening dates yet,” Guglielmi said. “It’s not completely uncommon for us to buy property and then wait a while to build, but usually we do go ahead and build right away.”

Guglielmi said Bowling Green is in line for one of Meijer’s superstores, which would measure either 150,000 or 190,000 square feet, depending on which footprint is chosen.

It will offer not only grocery items, but a variety of clothing and home goods.

“What sets us apart is the freshness of our groceries,” he said. “We have over 600 types of produce and ... a full-service meat counter where we will do custom cuts.”

Guglielmi said the stores also feature a large number of organic and all-natural products and a large gluten-free section. “We were really one of the first grocers to ramp up the gluten-free section,” he said.

Guglielmi said he often hears from customers who have gluten sensitivities and who appreciate the offerings.

The store pharmacy also offers a free drug program for anyone who holds a prescription for seven major antibiotics, the most common type II diabetes drug (Metformin), prenatal vitamins and the generic form of Lipitor.

Alex Nottmeier, a broker for Neal Turner Realty, is handling the transaction for the property on Westpark Drive. “This would definitely be the biggest retail new construction we’ve seen in some time,” Nottmeier said. “I think we are seeing a rebound in the overall market as we are closing in on the end of 2012.”

Nottmeier expects that this store will spur other development nearby. In fact, for several years, plans have been in the works for more development there.

“Then we had the downturn in the economy, and now retailers are looking to expand,” said Phil Warren Jr., a Tennessee developer working on the project.

Warren will develop a 100,000-square-foot shopping center in Gary Farms across from Kohl’s and Home Depot.

“It will have multiple tenants, and we hope to have leases by the end of the year,” Warren said, declining to say what kind of retailers are interested. Construction would begin three months after that on the development, called the Shoppes at Gary Farms, he said.

Gary Farms is already properly zoned for any new development, according to Steve Hunter, executive director of the City-County Planning Commission of Warren County.

Hunter said at some point a new detailed development plan will need to be submitted for Meijer. At Thursday’s Board of Adjustments meeting, a variance was issued so that the signage could be increased at Gary Farms to add more tenants, he said.

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