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East End News

Jim’s Local Market before Planning, City Council this week

Two important steps in the development of the proposed grocery store at 25th and Nine Mile happen this coming week.

The Planning Commission will meet Tuesday at 1:30 PM to consider ordinances which would:

  1. conditionally rezone the properties from a mix of zonings to to the B-5C Central Business District (Conditional),
  2. close North 25th Street between Nine Mile Road and T Street,
  3. close four alleys in the development footprint, and
  4. declare surplus and to direct the sale of City-owned real estate located at 2534 Nine Mile Road for nominal consideration.

Ned Oliver at richmond.com is reporting that City Council’s organizational development committee will be discussing a grant from the city to bolster the project:

Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones is proposing a $500,000 grant for Jim’s Local Market, a grocery store planned for the corner of Nine Mile Road and North 25th Street in the East End.
[…]
The overall project is expected to draw $26 million in private investment and will employ 30 full-time employees and between 30 and 50 part-time employees, the mayor’s office said.

“This is not a case like most new groceries built in food deserts – they can be up to 100% subsidized,” says Mark Kronenthal, Chief of Staff to Mayor Jones. “Here the private support and the support of Bon Secours has reduced the need for public support by many orders of magnitude. The high level of private support makes the East End grocery an exceptional example of a relatively low request for public support. This project is to be celebrated.”

A piece in the Daily Press from earlier this year indicates that the city of Newport News spent close over $18 million on a similar food desert project (“$4.5 million on the development of the grocery store and up to $18.3 million on Brooks Crossing total”).

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23 comments

ray 09/04/2016 at 9:18 AM

2. Close North 25th Street between Nine Mile Road and T Street.

Why? I mean, that’s a big deal.

Reply
Paul S 09/05/2016 at 9:15 AM

@ray – presumably to make the grocery store more easily and safely accessible to all the surface parking?

I personally don’t expect a TON of people to be driving to this store. If the overwhelming majority of the customer base for this store had easy access to cars they’d already be driving to other grocery stores rather than shopping at convenience stores. But many of them don’t have cars so this is largely seen as a food desert. Therefore the roughly 70 spots on the west side of 25th might be close to enough to serve the customer base. But sometimes developers can only secure financing for their projects if a certain amount of parking is attached. Banks have arcane rules that serve suburbs better than urban areas.

Overall I think the grocery store is a worthy project and the overall development will be good once the retail along Nine Mile is also built (note the areas on the plans that say “Future Building Area”).

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Stewart Schwartz 09/06/2016 at 7:39 AM

I recommend people share their thoughts with the Planning Commission before or at their meeting today, and with Councilmember Newbille. I concur with Ray’s concern and appreciate Paul’s thoughtful assessment. It’s certainly a net positive to have a grocery store with the jobs it will bring to north Church Hill. In addition, it’s good that they frame Fairmont and Nine Mile Road with buildings built to the sidewalk.

Still, I think we should ask for 25th to be kept open as a public street. We should also see if the number of parking spaces can be reduced. In addition to what Paul noted in terms of limited demand, fewer spaces would allow for saving large, older and healthy trees. Those on the NE parcel help cool the homes to the north, and there’s a really full tree on the NW portion of the Jim’s site. Does anyone know if there were design discussions with the community to consider all options, including fewer parking spaces and how to allow for some trees to be saved?

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Remmie Chew III 09/06/2016 at 10:42 AM

There where some discussions about the parking spots and the parking lots that would also set inside the grocer. But I feel that it was more of a wide”guess”conversation and not an actual “this is what is happening” process. I do agree however as a tree Stewart that we keep the trees and shade they provide and that they also try and build more greenery around the area as well. However I also agree with the “vehicle” point as well my wife and I have a vehicle and we go to many of the stores around the area or upper broad as well as whole foods trader joes short pump etc. and having a vehicle makes things easier. But having a grocer I can simply walk to especially with all the cool little shops that is just a dream

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BAF 09/06/2016 at 1:29 PM

Let them build it as they need to build it. I assume that the developers and business owners know what they need and have done the market research to determine how people will come to their store and how they need to be accommodated. I doubt they would pay to lay asphalt they don’t have reason to believe they would need.

Be glad they are willing to invest in the neighborhood rather than arguing over parking space counts. Small potatoes in the bigger picture.

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chpn 09/06/2016 at 8:30 PM

Grocery unanimously passed in Planning Commission; grant for grocery unanimously passed in City Council org dev committee.

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Kathleen 09/06/2016 at 9:39 PM

Well said BAF!! I love trees but, Geez Louise, we need this grocery store!!

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Stewart Schwartz 09/07/2016 at 9:02 AM

All: As I mentioned I strongly support the grocery store and the good, healthy food and jobs it will provide, but I find that the city never does the detailed analysis it should to look at design options for plans and projects. I am an urbanist, strongly supportive of redevelopment with good urban form — buildings built to the sidewalks etc., and very pleased that this company is making this investment. But we should not discount the value of trees to our community – especially our large, old trees which provide shade, enhance property values, help manage stormwater, and calm the soul. We are establishing new heat records each year, and we need trees and the cooling shade they provide for health and livability in our city.

Reply
Paul S 09/07/2016 at 12:15 PM

>> “I assume that the developers and business owners know what they need and have done the market research to determine how people will come to their store and how they need to be accommodated. I doubt they would pay to lay asphalt they don’t have reason to believe they would need.”

I support this project. But I don’t support BAF’s notion that developers and lenders always know what is best. One prime example I have first hand knowledge of. In the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC the DCUSA mall was built with Target as the anchor. Target and the developers insisted that incredible amounts of parking would be needed to support the development. The city conceded. And now despite the mall being outrageously popular and successful there is an entire lower level of the parking garage that has 1000 spaces that virtually never gets used at all. Because it is so under utilized the parking garage costs $2.1 million/yr more to operate than it takes in revenue.

Developers and retailers underestimated how many trips to DCUSA would be made by foot, bus and metro. Most developers/retailers have a suburban mindset and apply suburban principles to all projects – even their urban ones and the results are mixed.

The stakes are not as high with Jim’s Grocer of course. We’re just talking asphalt. But I tend to believe it is important to push developers to justify poor urban design elements when they are either 1) getting public money/subsidy/land or 2) asking for a zoning variance.

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BAF 09/08/2016 at 1:44 AM

@8 & 9

I am sure developers have made errors in the past. Many projects don’t work out as planned. That doesn’t somehow mean any of us know better. I live 5 blocks away. I won’t be walking there because a) the Ocean Grocery block stands between me and the store and is way too sketch and b) I don’t want to carry stuff 6 blocks. Others may walk there. Who really knows? All we know for certain is our own behavior.

You can push as you want. All I know is there hasn’t been a lot of people throwing money at the idea of building a real grocery store up here before this. I’m not all that interested in letting the perfect be the enemy of the good here nor am I interested in looking a gift horse in the mouth because someone is worried about a few parking spaces and a tree.

Everyone wants to be a backseat developer when it’s not their investment and it’s not their risk. Assuming that Jim is going to be the quality operator he appears to be and assuming that Markel is going to develop a solid project as I suspect he will, let them build their vision. I’m much more interested in seeing Jim’s forest of groceries than that I am that tree if a choice must be made. Stick with the big picture rather than your personal preferences and nitpicking. They’re putting up an 8 figure investment in the neighborhood to provide a service we have all been clamoring for. Let’s get out of their way so they can do it.

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Kathleen 09/08/2016 at 8:09 AM

I hope Jim’s is willing and able to curb the loitering and panhandling so Jim’s doesn’t become a larger version of the Ocean Grocery.

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Paul S 09/08/2016 at 3:04 PM

>> ” Others may walk there. Who really knows? All we know for certain is our own behavior.”

@BAF It is more than a behavior or preference issue. Many of the articles I’ve read and advocacy I’ve come across for a grocery store in this location is that many of the lower income residents in this area of the east end DON’T have cars. Especially in all the nearby RRHA properties…

So while you may prefer to drive your car to the future Jim’s grocery great for you. Many others will walk out of necessity, not out of preference. Richmond hasn’t pushed so hard for this store so some people can drive 4 blocks instead of a mile and a half. They pushed for it because many low income residents without cars are resigned to taking the bus to a grocer or settling for shopping at a convenience store within walking distance.

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BAF 09/08/2016 at 7:27 PM

@12. I am sure that is true. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a customer base for drivers. Just because the city pushed for the store because many nearby have transportation challenges doesn’t mean the store cannot see a market for driving patrons. They are not mutually exclusive.

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BAF 09/08/2016 at 7:28 PM

@11 If Jim’s isn’t willing to do that, they will limit the customer base in a way that will undermine their profits.

Reply

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