How to buy both Chicken and Eggs Downtown
The lack of grocery options is a very real problem Downtown. It’s difficult to convince a developer to build a store without a critical mass of residents in the area, and it’s difficult to convince people to move downtown when one of their number one amenities is located just outside their neighborhood. Is there a solution?
I think there might be.
You don’t have to look too hard to find shining examples of new development downtown: Gay Street, The Arena District, Riversouth… and its apparent that all of these developments have come about through a mix of public and private investments. The city upgrades infrastructure and provides developers with tax break incentives, and in turn those developers invest millions into new residential, office, and entertainment spaces.
This marriage of public-and-private investment has worked well on a larger scale, so why can’t something similar be applied on a smaller scale to solve the nagging problem of grocery shopping?
The Columbus Downtown Development Corporation & Capitol South are non-profit development organizations formed to redevelop downtown, and according to a statement here “are strongly committed to downtown revitalization”.
Currently, CDDC & Capitol South are building out retail space in the Lazarus Building, and also working on similar projects in neighboring buildings along High Street. This is all taking place adjacent to the new 206-unit residential development under construction by Lifestyle Communities and across the street from what will soon become Columbus Commons. A perfect site for a small bodega-style grocery store.
But again… what grocery store is going to be willing to come in as an early adopter in what is typically a very risky business venture? How about a non-profit organization?
Local Matters is a non-profit with a mission to provide easily-accessible locally-grown sustainable food. They set up The Greener Grocer a little over a year ago at the North Market to serve as a for-profit “face” for several of their programs, and also to help to fill a niche for a fresh produce option in downtown’s premiere marketplace.
So… you probably already know where I’m going with this.
I propose that CDDC & Capitol South set aside a small rent-free retail space in one of their South High buildings specifically for a non-profit organization such as Local Matters to fill that grocery niche that many people want to see downtown.
Local Matters benefits by being able to expand their mission.
CDDC & Capitol South benefit by making all of their surrounding properties ten times more attractive with a small but important grocery anchor.
And most importantly… downtown residents win by getting exactly what they’re asking for.