Home improvement giants may face off in Littleton

A competition between the two largest home improvement retail companies in the world may be taking shape on Route 302 in Littleton.

Lowe’s, the second-largest home improvement company, has withdrawn its interest in a proposed retail center at Exit 43 on Interstate 93, and indications are mounting that it may be planning to build a store a short distance from the Home Depot that is under construction on Route 302.

Many people have said they thought it unlikely that Lowe’s would compete directly with Home Depot, the world’s largest home improvement retailer, in a rural area like the North Country. But Town Manager Jason Hoch met recently with a representative of a Massachusetts engineering firm that has been hired to explore the possibility of building another home improvement store. The store would be at least 125,000 square feet on property bordering Route 302 owned by businessman Val Poulsen.

The Home Depot store being built next to Littleton Chevrolet is about 130,000 square feet.

“It looks as if we may have competition in the market for home improvement supplies before we have competition in the market for groceries,” Hoch said following a one-hour meeting with Dave Albrecht of Rizzo Associates of Framingham, Mass.

He said Albrecht declined to identify the developer of the store or the potential tenant, but he did talk about the concept of two competing stores in such close proximity.

“We discussed that interesting juxtaposition,” Hoch said. “He expected that the stores were slightly different in their customer base and the way they sell things.”

Meanwhile, another retail developer, Konover & Associates Inc. of Farmington, Conn., does not appear interested in renewing its option to buy a 58-acre site near Exit 43 that is owned by the McLure family of Littleton.

Dusty McMahan, Konover’s director of project management, said that Lowe’s – the only announced potential tenant for his company’s proposed 300,000-square-foot retail center on the McLure land – is no longer interested in the site.

Developers representing Wal-Mart have looked around town for a site to build a larger Wal-Mart superstore and last fall also explored the possibility of expanding the existing Wal-Mart, which measures about 93,000 square feet.

One area targeted by many for future large-scale retail development is the land around Exit 43.

Robert MacPherson, the Massachusetts developer who is building the Home Depot store on Route 302, first wanted to put the store on the Highland Croft property at Exit 43. But he dropped his option to buy that site when a group of people protested the potential loss of what they considered historic buildings on the property.

When Konover disclosed its plans for Exit 43 last fall, and McMahan identified Lowe’s as a potential tenant, he said it was unlikely that both Lowe’s and Home Depot would build stores in Littleton.

McMahan said Konover was in a race with MacPherson to see who could get project approval first. MacPherson won, and the Home Depot store is expected to open around the end of the year.nhbr

Lyn Bixby is a reporter for the Littleton Courier. This article appears through a special arrangement with the newspaper.

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