The empty Whitlock Avenue strip mall once anchored by an A&P will soon be home to a new grocery store.

Lidl has plans to go into the vacant property, Marietta Mayor Steve Tumlin announced at his annual State of the City Address at the Mansour Center on Wednesday.

“They’re a very competitive, very innovative brand,” Tumlin said. “It was a good one to get. … It’s kind of like putting the heart back in. That A&P was awful popular. It’s been a void for a long time. … It’s going to mean the world for people in Ward 4, Wards 2 and 3, to have a grocer they can get to without going forever.”

City Manager Bill Bruton said citizens have been wanting something new in that space for years.

“That is the one thing we’ve heard for years is that people have wanted a grocery store to go in that area, and for it to be a specialized grocery as this is,” he said. “And so I think everybody is going to get what they’ve been wanting for many years.”

The 37,000-square-foot structure on Whitlock was built in 1974. The Great A&P Co. grocery store there shuttered its doors in 1993.

A World Gym occupied the space briefly until 2006, and the parking lot out front was used for Christmas tree sales the following year, according to the city. It was a perpetual gripe target for neighbors, who called it an eyesore and complained about a lack of nearby grocery stores.

Economic Development Manager Daniel Cummings said the empty store was “probably the No. 1 piece of property I get asked about.”

Cummings said the property started turning around when it was purchased in October by Atlanta-based Blanchard Real Estate for $1.85 million.

“On a scale of good owners to bad owners, these owners have been intricately involved with the city, communicating with us, talking about the possibilities that could go on this property that has garnered so much interest and so much attention,” he said.

Based in Germany, Lidl operates about 10,500 stores in 29 countries, including more than 50 across nine East Coast states. The chain opened three metro Atlanta stores this year, including two in Cobb. One is at the corner of Barrett Parkway and Powder Springs Road and the other is in Mableton, on Floyd Road near the intersection of Nickajack Road.

Bruton said the fact that the chain is opening a new spot so close to its other new stores shows their confidence in the city.

“From what they’re telling us, they love the market. The market study they did and from what they’re looking at, the numbers are very very good, so they’re expecting to do very well there,” he said. “They’ve delivered a site plan to us, how they would lay it out and how it would be built, so now they’re going to go through the permitting process.

Bruton said the city’s zoning department will be reviewing the plans. The company will likely be requesting some variances that will need to be approved by the City Council, but Bruton said it was nothing major.

“Initial assessment is that it looks good,” he said.

No timeline for the plan was announced.

“It’s still a long way to go, but it’s something the city is eagerly engaged with them on, and we’re looking forward to working with them,” Cummings said.

Mayor Tumlin spent the rest of his speech praising city staff and enumerating other developments in the city.

IKEA SLOW, BUT STILL COMING

He said another popular European retailer with a blue and yellow logo is still coming to Marietta.

“Ikea is still on goal. … They’re going to make the right choice,” he said. “Different from other cities where they’ve canceled completely, they have $18 million in that property. … So they’re very committed, they’re going in their own sweet time, but they’ve given us no indication that they’re not coming.”

The Swedish build-it-yourself furniture giant announced plans to build a 338,000-square-foot shopping center, the largest in Cobb County history, last December, but no new building construction has taken place so far.

Tumlin praised other developments on and around Franklin Gateway, including the new Home2Suites hotel by Hilton, which is set to open this month in place of a Holiday Inn that was destroyed by a fire, as well as the purchase of 17.18 acres of property by Major League Soccer club Atlanta United next to its current headquarters.

He said even he does not yet know what the soccer team will do there.

“We had occasion at the City Council to talk about it. We wanted to know what they’ll do with it, they just weren’t prepared to say. … The papers are loving it and the media, because they keep talking about what it is, some think it’s going to be a stadium, some think it’s going to be a women’s soccer league, others are saying it’s going to be the dormitories for the very successful academy, so keep checking back to see what happens there,” Tumlin said.