The Santa Barbara Architectural Board of Review approved plans early last month to begin construction of a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in downtown Santa Barbara.

The 11,500 square-foot market will be located at 336 North Milpas Street and is one of the chain’s 162 locations in California, Nevada and Arizona. The market will offer brand name products and premade meals in addition to organic meats and produce.

According to Fresh & Easy spokesman Brendan Wonnacott, the new store will provide customers with a wider variety of options.

“Our stores are designed for the 21st-century-minded shoppers,” Wonnacott said. “We offer favorite national brand products you need to run a household but also provide the Fresh & Easy label of products.”

The construction proposal involves the demolition of over three stores on the 300 block of North Milpas Street including the long standing Whitefoot Meat Market.

Architectural Board of Review Senior Planner Jaime Limon said the unique design of the store allows the owners to side-step parts of the permit approval process for construction.

“Since this project actually involves reducing the square footage of the previous buildings, it did not need to get the usual land use approvals,” Limon said. “Because of this there are a lot of allowances made and there is no regard or scrutiny made for a building’s value to a community”

However, Limon said the Fresh & Easy store owners have not yet provided the Architectural Board with the final building plans.

“I think the biggest thing in the delay was the ground contamination found during the environmental review,” Limon said. “They currently have the permission to re-grade and do the ground contamination cleanup, which is their next step before further permits will be issued.”

Limon said there is not a set date for the store to open, as the construction team has postponed the project.

“I believe the delays might be tied to the economy,” Limon said. “But there are certain allowances for how long they can be in planning stage and even when a final permit is issued they can wait a year and ask for further extensions.”