HAVERHILL — After years of being empty and rumors about what new business might move into the former Kmart building in Westgate Plaza, the answer appears to have been right next door.
City officials said the Demoulas family, which owns the plaza, has plans to move their Market Basket from one end of the plaza to the other and into a larger building once occupied by W.T. Grant and then Kmart, which closed seven years ago.
City officials said they have tried to find a tenant to replace Kmart after the economic loss the city suffered when the retailer closed. They said they had referred a number of interested parties to the Demoulas organization over the years, but nothing ever came of it.
Yesterday, Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury said he spoke to engineers from Demoulas last week about the company's plans for a bigger Market Basket in Westgate Plaza.
"All indications are that the project is going to move forward," Pillsbury said. "It's an extremely exciting project for Haverhill to see the reuse of the Kmart building as a Market Basket store."
Pillsbury said the company's plans include redeveloping the existing Market Basket building in the plaza and populate it with other retailers.
"They may need to go through some preliminary work with the Board of Appeals regards parking, as the engineering guys indicated they may need some relief with parking there," Pillsbury said. "We'll do everything we can to work with them to expedite this project."
The manager of Demoulas at Westgate referred all questions to the corporate office in Tewksbury. Messages left with the corporate office were not returned.
After Kmart in Haverhill closed its doors in 2003, rumors have floated around that other businesses were interested in opening there, including Sears and Target. Several years ago, BJs opened in the Ward Hill Business Park, then Target and Lowe's opened in the Broadway Business Park.