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    Cincinnati Stops Kroger Departure

    City grants $15 million for new headquarters parking garage.

    CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. reported its plans to relocate in order to accommodate employee parking needs, which lead city officials to agree to provide the retail firm with $15 million for a new parking garage.

    "If no solution to the short and long-term parking needs is found, it will be necessary for Kroger to relocate the corporate headquarters," said Kroger in a proposal to the city.

    Kroger's headquarters provides more than $2.5 million in earnings taxes for the city, and Mayor Charlie Luken and City Manager Valerie Lemme forged the agreement, announced to City Council yesterday.

    Approval is expected in August, with a deal calling for the city to spend $13 million to $15 million to build a parking garage on the existing lot purchased by Kroger for $3 million a month ago. The 250 to 1,000-space garage would be operational by March 2005.

    The company considered building a new parking garage or moving the headquarters staff of 1,200 out of downtown, said Joseph A. Pichler, CEO of Kroger. He reported a savings if the headquarters moved in suburban Cincinnati, and also studied possibilities of moving to unspecified sites, both in and out of Ohio. Kroger operates more than 800 convenience stores and 2,200 supermarkets nationwide.

    If approved, the city would own and operate the garage and Kroger would contribute annual payments of $510,000 for maintenance and debt in exchange for 850 spaces. Also, the city would need an additional $850,000 to $1.1 million a year to finance and operate the garage.

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