Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Groceries a-go-go

I've been out of the loop again, but this time I blame it on the fact that I don't live in the effected neighborhood. Last I'd heard, Whole Foods was slated to move out of its old 3313 University Ave. location and into a shiny new space just a few blocks up, where a new development is slowly being built. That seemed a bit odd to me, especially seeing as how there's already a Sentry right across the parking lot, and a Copps just down the street. What neighborhood needs, let alone can support, three full-service grocery stores?

Apparently, however, the downturn in ye ol' marketplace and other such factors have nixed Whole Foods' plans to move and open a new store. Poor babies*. Y'know, I'd like to see a mixed used, preferably sustainable development go in where there is now only a big, gaping hole, but I think they could (and will likely now have to) find better use for it than yet another grocery store. And, too, there are other neighborhoods in this city that are decidedly lacking in easy-to-access groceries. If we're going to encourage new stores to open, why not point them in the direction of an area that actual wants/needs them?

It's important for neighborhoods to have various essentials within reasonable walking distance. We've done a great job of building totally isolated communities where you're pretty much forced to hop in the car to do any errands, and that's a damn shame. Not only is it ecologically smart to build mixed-used, it's also financially smart for the people who live there: less gas money (and car payments, insurance, etc.) to get where you need to go, more exercise, more community connectedness.

So I'm not at all bummed to hear that Whole Foods is likely having to pull out of its weird plans to move a few blocks just to be in the same 'hood as two other big stores. I'm not surprised, either, to hear that these large, ambitious developments are having financial trouble. Hindsight is certainly 20/20, but I think there were plenty of sound voices in the wilderness warning us about unchecked building even before the current downturn. If nothing else, we now need to take the opportunity to really rethink how we go about improving our neighborhoods and cities. It's becoming more and more crucial every day.

*Whole Foods as a store is nice enough and all, but I've never been a big fan of their overall business plan and bizarre CEO.


Michael Donnelly said...

Copps really did a number on a lot of poorer neighborhoods around Wisconsin when they bought out Kohls. They closed down the less profitable stores -- which tended to be in less affluent neighborhoods -- refusing to sell the unwanted stores because they didn't want the competition.

Emily said...

Good point. It's a shame that the bigger grocery stores--the ones better able to bring more variety at lower costs--tend to neglect and/or abandon the neighborhoods most in need of fresh (not fast) food. The whole thing with Copps buying out Kohls is a great case-in-point.

The Lost Albatross