AUBURN — National craft and home decor chain Hobby Lobby will open a retail store near Kohl’s, Petco and Starbucks at 65 Mount Auburn Ave. this fall.

Crews for the company have begun site preparations to build the 55,000 square foot store this summer. Consultant Michael Gotto said the project is awaiting approval from Auburn’s City Planning staff.

“This is a project that was approved years ago, part of a commercial subdivision, under city standards,” Gotto said. “We are building out the parking lot that was allowed. The only change is the size of the building, and we can’t start the building until staff signs off.”

The Auburn Planning Board approved plans to build a Hannaford supermarket on the lot in 1991 and reaffirmed that approval in 1998, but the store was never built. Hannaford sold the lot to developer George Schott’s Affordable Mid Cost Housing group in January 2013.

Gotto said the current project relies on that earlier approval, with few changes. The company wants to increase the building’s size from 53,000 square feet to 55,000 and that requires approval from the state.

But Auburn City Planner Doug Greene said the city is asking for the authority to review the project itself.

“There are three areas that the state has authority over: storm water management, large projects, larger than seven acres, and transportation impacts,” Greene said. “Once the state has gone through the review, which it did in those early stages, those impacts have been looked at. So this is just a minor modification.”

Developers are asking the city to get the rights from the state to approve the project. Gotto said the project should not require approval from the Auburn Planning Board.

“There is nothing proposed different at this time,” Gotto said. “It’s a fast-tracked project they’ve been working on for several months and they now have a signed lease. Now we’re trying to get it done.”

Hobby Lobby is one of the largest arts and crafts retailers in the country with more than 561 stores nationally. One is on Stillwater Avenue in Bangor.

The chain was started in Oklahoma City, Okla., in 1972 by current CEO David Green. The company is privately owned and is proudly religious, touting the faith of its Christian owners on its website and offering a list of Christian ministries it supports.

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