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Supermarkets as Neighborhood Centers: Vision For a More Walkable America

Neal Peirce / May 29 2010

For Release Sunday, April 18, 2010 (Reprinted May 30)
© 2010 Washington Post Writers Group

Neal Peirce

Supermarkets surrounded by acres of asphalt. Push-wagons heavily loaded with groceries wheeled out, the haul stashed in car trunks. Always a drive — often several miles — to get food.

We perfected the buy-and-drive model from the post-World War II expansion onward. But is it necessarily the future?

No, asserts my Seattle friend and urban design planner, Mark Hinshaw. He sees a dramatically transformed role for supermarkets. They’ll actually become the anchors of new and walkable neighborhoods, he predicts in a Planning magazine article co-authored with markets analyst Brian Vanneman.

Why the shift? Americans’ high personal consumption levels were starting to wind down even before the Great Recession. Households have shrunk in size and the population is aging, with more taste for close-by shops and facilities. Many young people are eschewing the scattered suburban pattern in favor of denser urban living. Buying a house on the urban fringe, once seen as a ticket to wealth-building, now looks to be a big risk. Walking for health and weight loss has begun, for many Americans, to outshine the sedentary lifestyle of using an auto for every conceivable errand. And many people are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint.

But are those shifts big enough to let neighborhood-based supermarkets compete with and maybe outpace the drive-only suburban locations? You’ll wonder, as I did.

But Hinshaw’s predictive track record is impressive. He was the first person to tell me, precisely 25 years ago, that post-World War II suburbs such as Bellevue, across Lake Washington from Seattle, could become true urban places on their own. I had fun writing the story– the prospect of Bellevue, the place they used to call “car city,” all strip commercial, no sidewalks and “potentially terminal boredom,” turning itself into a Class A center with high-rise buildings, plazas, parks, cafes.

And in fact the transformation has occurred, not just in Bellevue but in revamped old suburban sites around major cities coast to coast.

Today, Hinshaw asserts, grocery stores are re-emerging “as one of the cornerstones of great places to live.” Many are becoming social spaces, with espresso bars and welcoming seating. “People hang out, read the paper or a book, and meet friends — even when buying groceries isn’t part of the trip.”

In America’s reviving center cities, residents clamor for new grocery stores. We’re about to get one in my neighborhood in Southwest Washington, D.C., with a long-missed coffee shop, and everyone is elated. There was celebration in downtown Houston last year when years of planning culminated in opening of Byrd’s Market & Cafe.

Foodwise, the new market wave offers amenities residents crave — ultra-fresh vegetables and fruits, organic choices, varieties of fresh fish, specialty breads, spices and bottled spirits.
Will lack of parking crimp the growth of city and neighborhood markets? No, argues Hinshaw. A growing number of new markets are offering just a few dozen parking slots, some none at all. The new “niche” is people who carry two bags of groceries out by hand every few days, rather than transporting a dozen or more bags by car twice a month. Buying more frequently also means bringing home the freshest available foods.

The environs do make a difference. A market with an attractive public space outside — some kind of public square — will have an edge. The planners’ “rule of thumb” that people will only walk a quarter-mile isn’t true, Hinshaw contends. Make the walk interesting — no blank walls, no parking lots, but rather a mix of parks and gardens and public space, and interesting stores to glance in — and folks will walk further. Especially for food.

That’s why Hinshaw sees supermarkets as the anchors of “main street”-centered neighborhoods with dimensions of some four to five blocks. A market needs a surrounding population of 8,000 to 10,000 people, or about 4,000 houses, to succeed. The same population base can sustain another 50,000 to 80,000 square feet of shops and services.

One could expect a variety of places people want — perhaps a library, a community health clinic, a community center or town hall. And rather than some pre-planned perfect architectural order, a “messy vitality” of different types of uses and building sizes would seem in order.
The formula wouldn’t work for spread-out subdivisions, but there are thousands of locations across the U.S. where it could.

Such neighborhoods, Hinshaw suggests, wouldn’t necessarily need public transit connections. I doubt this part of his formula: without quality bus, preferably light- or heavy-rail connections, residents would have to revert to significantly high auto usage to reach work sites and other attractions across their region.

Still, Hinshaw’s overarching vision of walkable neighborhoods centered around our most-used facility of all — our food markets — is not just a nostalgic idea. It makes eminent sense for planning the next generation of American neighborhoods, and remaking the ones we have.


Neal Peirce’s e-mail is npeirce@citistates.com.

For reprints of Neal Peirce’s column, please contact Washington Post Permissions, c/o PARS International Corp., WPPermissions@parsintl.com, fax 212-221-9195. For newspaper syndication sales, Washington Post Writers Group, 202-334-5375, wpwgsales@washpost.com.

20 Comments

  1. Bruce F. Donnelly
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 3:55 am | Permalink

    How large are these supermarkets, and from how large an area can they draw? The flip side of “Be careful what you measure” is “Be careful to measure what you want.”

  2. Posted April 17, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Neal: Actually, this “new concept” has been on the up swing for some time. The reality is that the neighborhood store never left. 7-Eleven kind of replaced the mom and pop stores that sold nearly everything including baked goods and fresh meat. These were the good old days for me–the 50′s when you had grocers delivering to your home. Now we are reaching forward to those days of milkmen and bakeries with delivery trucks. Urban renewal, that great idea that tore the hearts out of every town and left gaping holes in many cities to this very day, was a government idea that went awry. Now, with another government program gone awry, the sub-prime mortgage, our people must again live in a clustered environment–not by choice but by having affordable housing and transportation. To serve these folks, i.e. those out of work, those working, those retired, we need groceries. The small grocers will be back to serve these folks until another great idea comes along.

  3. Dave Feehan
    Posted April 17, 2010 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Thanks for adding to the discussion on supermarkets. Since I’ve moved from my role as president of International Downtown Association to that of a private consultant, I am even more acutely aware of the questions surrounding retail, urban supermarkets, and walkability.

    I just returned from Pittsburgh where my colleague Larisa Ortiz (former director of the CMAS program at LISC) and I are conducting a retail study for the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority and South Side Local Development Company, that area’s CDC and Main Street Manager.

    There are two supermarkets in this historic and walkable neighborhood just across the river from downtown Pittsburgh. Schwartz’s has been on East Carson Street for more than a half-century. A relatively new Giant Eagle is about ten blocks away, closer to the Monongahela River and near the South Side Works development. Schwartz’s is struggling. The Giant Eagle is doing very well.

    Schwartz’s does not exactly fit the description of a “boutique” supermarket. It’s more a funky, quirky old store, but with a certain charm. Furthermore, it offers delivery service. It has very limited parking. Giant Eagle, on the other hand, does not deliver; but it has a much broader selection, lower prices, and it has the specialty sections most large supermarkets have these days — deli, bakery, seafood, butcher, etc. It carries wine and beer. In addition, it has an aisle, as many supermarkets do, with hardware and auto-related items.

    I think that Mr. Hinshaw’s ideas could work; perhaps, in just the right (upscale, dense) niche communities. But for the vast number of cities in America, I have strong doubts that we will see people change their grocery-shopping patterns enough to support supermarkets without parking, markets that depend on foot traffic.

    Where I live, I am within about four or five blocks from a small shopping center with a Giant supermarket. When we moved to DC, I bought a wire basket on wheels so that I could walk to the supermarket — and I do, from time to time. But I don’t have the time to walk to the market every other day, because I am usually on the road three weeks out of four. When the weather is bad, I drive. My guess is that 70% of my trips to the supermarket are via auto. When I’m buying heavier items, such as milk and juice, or bulky items such as paper towels, I tend to drive.

    I say all this as someone who walks every day around my neighborhood (or around the community in which I am working) for a half-hour to an hour for exercise; as someone who never drove to work in downtown DC for ten years; and as someone who obviously believes in walkable communities.

    Supermarkets are low-margin, high volume operations. Will Americans pay substantially more groceries in order to shop lower-volume boutique markets? Maybe they will — Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s seems to be doing well — but both have substantial parking.

    I think grocery-shopping is something we Americans are going to use our cars to do for some time to come. I don’t see many people walking with either bags or wheeled baskets (as I try to do) and I definitely don’t see people using buses and subways for grocery shopping (and as you know, I ride the Metro in DC and the subways in NYC regularly).

    I remain a hopeful skeptic on this one.

  4. Posted April 18, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Neal, I couldn’t agree with you more, and this article encompasses the major objectives of my project The Zipper ABQ, a Walk and Ride Guide to Historic Route 66, in Albuquerque, NM. The mission is to facilitate a “Walk+Ride+Bike+Shop Local” life style in the 5 most historic neighborhoods of the center of the city.

    I believe that walking is economy, and that it builds society, culture, and community. I love the idea of grocery stores becoming civic spaces.

    Keep an eye on the Nob Hill, UNM, Edo, Downtown, and Old Town neighborhoods along Central Avenue in Albuquerque. Business owners, residents, and key community leaders are all keen on many of the ideas of a “footloose and car-free” society.

    I do believe that public transportation is an essential component to a more walkable culture, as buses, trains, trams, and trolleys are moving hallways of urban villages.

    I hope more people see these connections.

    Thank you~

  5. Susan Hogg
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Comments after receiving Neal Peirce’s column in the Oregonian. ( I do not live in Portland, I do go up there fairly frequently on business or to visit friends. I live in a small city on the Oregon coast)

    It’s not just what you can see that makes a neighborhood “walkable” or a nice place to walk–it’s the noise level. If you’re forced to walk–even on a sidwalk–next to a busy street/road w/boom boom cars speeding by, Harleys w/loud exhaust systems, planes and helicopters flying low and loudly overhead–stores playing their “music” over outside speakers, etc., it’s more of a raise your BP experience than a pleasant one. Large diesel powered pickups are also very noisy, and some are so large that their exhaust pipes are practically at head height (certainly at or above the height or of a child walking or a smaller child in a stroller—yep those exhaust fumes and the noise are good for little kids–and everyone else–right?).

    So-called walkable areas in the town I live in (a tourist town) are plagued by the loud noise from the combustion engines and sound system sources I’ve listed above. Do I like walking in those areas anymore? No, I don’t. You used to walk down there and hear harbor seals, ships, and the sound of water slapping against the docks and hulls. In the other “tourist” area, you could hear the ocean (there’s some surf here most of the time). Occasionally you can still hear those sounds, but mostly they’re drowned out by the noises you can hear near any freeway or any neighborhood that people feel free to blast their sound systems in.

    And most supermarkets have cranked up their own sound systems to the point where the decibel level is irritating and hard to block out.

    The last time I walked through the Pearl district in Portland–which is supposed to be a “walkable” neighborhood, my ears were assaulted by the noise of: low flying news helicopters (I think that’s what they were), boom boom cars, the lousy “muzak” that several store owners felt they just had to share with the rest of the world, the noises that trucks make when they drive down narrow streets, oh and of course, the loud exhaust systems of motor vehicles (motor cycles, pickups and cars) of males who apparently think that having that make high decibel endless fart noises make them cool. Or at least draw people’s attention. Compared to all that megabass type noise, the sounds of the Amtrak train pulling out of the station was nothing. I hate the noise of helicopters and small planes overhead—it is extremely intrusive. As are megabass sound systems.

    I’d probably enjoy walking through the Pearl district and much of the rest of Portland (I certainly used to) if that noise wasn’t ever present. I haven’t spent enough time in Vienna or London or Berlin or any city of another “developed” nation, but I don’t remember London (at least the parts I was walking through and I walked alot the last time I was there) being as noisy. Probably having higher gas prices, less of an obsession withthe combustion engine and a congestion charge makes a difference.

    I find it peculiar and sad that in the US several cities (LA, Seattle) can propose ordinances that ban smoking in public parks–but their ordinances–if they exist–against loud exhaust systems, boom boom cars, go completely unenforced and manufacturers of the noisy exhaust systems aren’t fined–let alone that manufacturing and selling those devices and megabass blast it sound systems are legal, and EPA hasn’t done anything regarding the noise levels of aircraft since the ’70′s. It’s now clear that both the exhaust and the noise from all combustion engines increases people’s BP, slows the learning rate of children, that the exhaust increases rates of asthma in children, etc. but–on well, can’t possibly do anything about noise levels.

    As long as you don’t decrease noise levels, you will still be limited how much people will be willing to walk and how many will be willing to walk.

    In addition, you will need to make it easy (and stylish) for people to use wheelie bins or something to transport groceries. People who are aging may not want to or be able to carry two bags of groceries for 5-6 blocks–or further. There may be weight and balance issues. But they could use the kind of wheeled bins I used to see and occasionally still do. But, they will need to be well balanced, difficult to tip over and of course, stylish. Covered/easy to lock onto bicycle racks, with space for attached trailers will also be needed.

  6. Neal Peirce
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Comment received from Deb Wingert:
    wish it were true, but after having traveled most of America in the past twenty months, I am not seeing it. As you pointed out: “The formula wouldn’t work for spread-out subdivisions, but there are thousands of locations across the U.S. where it could.” None of the new developments we saw were being planned for walking to a business district. Eye witness survey shows people prefer moving out to the developments, in most communities.

    There are thousands of small towns where you could walk to the grocery store, but they were built well before the thirties — most have circa pre-turn of the century. If you wanted to live in their downtown business district… where these have not been “rejuvenated” into glorified tourist traps, serving no local needs, you have to me made of pretty brave stuff. They are usually heavily boarded up, or surrounded by places you wouldn’t feel safe walking through. There are people there, but only because they cannot leave. Their clothes are worn and ragged. Their faces are drawn. They chain smoke, and don’t look you in the eye.

    We started our trip looking for “Mayberry” where I wouldn’t have to drive my car except for trips to the outlands. Now, we are returning to our home in Kenmore, where I can at least walk to the QFC, the dry cleaners, and the bank. We’ll have to buy another second car, darn it.

  7. Jamie Cottrell
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Not such a new idea as this is how grocery stores operate in city centers in Europe. Everyone walks to the Billa’s and the Tesco’s on their way home from work or on their way to the Metro. The stores are small and centrally located, but they also provide whatever people need – plently of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheese, meats, drinks, breads, etc. The thing is, the Europeans don’t expect to have 800 choices of different detergents, and 250 types of toilet paper available, so the stores don’t have to be 100,000 sq ft.

  8. John December
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    Without parking reform–that is, removing the over-reliance on massive amounts of free parking–small-scale grocery stores may not be able to establish themselves as described in this article. As Donald Shoup points out in his book, The High Cost of Free Parking, many municipalities have outdated and non-scientific minimum parking requirements that subsidize automobile travel. For grocery stores in walkable urban neighborhoods, these minimum parking requirements should be relaxed or done away with entirely. Also, stores should charge directly for parking, so as not to pass along the cost of valuable urban land to customers in the form of higher-priced groceries.

    I’ve been going to grocery stores on foot or via bus for over two decades. It is not nearly as difficult as many people seem to think. I make one or two trips a week, and I use a small daypack to carry my groceries. I use the walk as part of my exercise routine–in fact, carrying my groceries has been key to staying fit and not getting overweight. As I get older, I will get a pull-cart to help carry the heavier items. I often rely on edited-selection discount stores that locate near urban areas (ALDI, Save-A-Lot)–these stores serve the functions described in this article in a low-key, inexpensive way. There is a Whole Paycheck store nearby, but that is out of my price range.

  9. Neal Peirce
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    For an excellent, related article — “Neighborhood Stores: An Overlooked Strategy for Fighting Global Warming” – by
    Stacy Mitchell of the New Rules Project, author of B”ig-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses” — check this URL:
    http://www.newrules.org/retail/article/neighborhood-stores-overlooked-strategy-fighting-global-warming

  10. Posted April 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

    You raise the excellent point that cities need to think about creative go-forward ways to humanize giant supermarket complexes. Huge parking lots are eye-sores and don’t offer any amenities in and of themselves. They make the streetscape boring and less walkable.

    Hmmm….I feel a blog post coming on myself on this.

  11. Lawrence Gulotta
    Posted April 20, 2010 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen such supermarkets, as you describe, in the Seattle area. By comparison to NYC standards, these new style supermarkets are extraordinary. The merchandise is of high quality, the aisles are very wide and briming with specialty/imported items. The store was clean and very well designed. The store I visited had a carefully designed classroom/kitchen for cooking classes. There were chairs and seating outdoors. The parking lot was on a small scale.

    The problem we have in NYC is that we do not have enough supermarkets. The Municipality recently issued many more permits for “curbside fruit and vegetable stands” because many neighborhoods are so underserviced by supermarkets.

    The economics of supermarkets are not so attractive when land values and property taxes are so high as in urban areas. Incentive programs are being used to spur supermarket chains to locate in the City.

    Of course, we do have a large number of fancy specialty stores that cater to expensive tastes and deep pocketbooks.

    It was a hurculean effort to attract a full service Pathmark super -market to Harlem, in the early 1990s. City, State and Federal monies were required to subsidize what so many suburban areas take for granted. Many urban areas require shopers to leave their neighborhoods to purchase groceries.

  12. Neal Peirce
    Posted April 21, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Here’s an especially interesting note and relevant opinion piece from Paul Bray, President of the Albany Roundtable civic lunch forum. His e-mail is PMBRAY@aol.com

    Neal: I wish the supermarkets you talk about in your column became a reality. I have seen it work and I have seen markets try to become a destination for more than food to carry home in an auto. But it is tough. That is why I thought about the peddler and wrote the following column. Perhaps you might be interested. Best, Paul

    Back to the future where we live

    By Paul M. Bray

    Breaking out of our auto dependency is about increasing options for mobility like living where you can walk to work or have good access to transit. Getting from here to there has been the focus without thinking how much less there there we have where we live and where we work because of the auto age.

    While the auto offers efficient personal mobility if you ignore traffic congestion, when you get to your destination the space required for parking results in less diversity of uses. Meeting the need for parking usually takes priority in our downtowns and residential neighborhoods.

    If the destination is a downtown, it often lacks retail diversity. You can’t find, for example, a book store or sporting goods store in downtown Albany. Auto dependency has led to retail and food markets to be clustered in isolated malls on the outskirts of urban areas. Suburban residential neighborhoods generally lack walkable access to a grocery, café, hardware store, hair dresser and a library.

    Even with reliable and frequent transit to work, we would still be dependent on the auto for much of our shopping. A former regional director of the Department of Transportation told me there are many more automobiles with their carbon foot print on the road on Saturdays than during the week. He said the first instance of auto gridlock in the Albany metro area will come on a Saturday.

    This led me to think about what is turning out to be an emerging trend back to the future with the milk truck, ice cream truck, veggie mobile, bookmobile and art mobile coming to our own home and neighborhood.

    The ice cream truck with its jingle to attract kids is still a regular during the summer in my Albany neighborhood. The home delivery milkman is making a comeback. Norm Monsen, a consultant to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, believes “a milkman renaissance is starting to take shape in many parts of the country”. The NY Times reports “For Oberweis Dairy in North Auroa, Ill., home delivery customers have increased to 40,000 from 10,000 in 1997.”

    A veggie mobile has started to bring fresh produce to Troy and Albany children and seniors in the food deserts our center cites have become as supermarkets retreated to the edges of the city or to the suburbs.

    In addition to food, the Albany metro area has benefited from the Music Mobile started and maintained for 30 years by Ruth Pelham. Ruth has reached tens of thousands of children and adults with Music Mobile songs as her van traveled throughout our communities.

    In the Chicago area an artist converted a school bus into an art gallery that similarly brings visual arts from neighborhood to neighborhood.

    My first thought about going back to the mid twentieth century when home delivery of bread, milk, eggs, vegetables, chicken and meat and frequency of other services through providers like knife sharpeners was that this would only increase social isolation. If we can work at home and goods can be delivered to our door, where would social interaction happen?

    But the opposite may be the case. Ice cream trucks have a way of drawing neighbors out of their home with their children to buy ice cream. Pied Pipers like Ruth Pelham and veggie mobiles can also be catalysts for bringing neighbors together. Regularly scheduled visits to neighborhoods by veggie, bread and butcher trucks would increase the livability (including walkable access to more goods) of visited neighborhoods. It would also require much less carbon than all the auto trips now used by individuals to buy what the mobile provider offers.

    We need many options to be able to move beyond adjusting our lives to our autos and accommodating its insatiable and costly requirement for parking space. Let us think about living in a time when we can look forward to what a nano world might offer and back to what peddlers and delivery people could provide goods directly for people where they live.

  13. Jon Reeds
    Posted April 28, 2010 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    I’m still a little surprised whenever I see US commentators citing Europe in general, or the UK in particular, as the exemplar of good urbanism. Europe certainly does have many examples of good practice, but it is far from universal and some countries have made only timid steps in that direction.
    Here in the UK, the weekly car trip to the supermarket for groceries has been most people’s default mode for some decades now. This is the product of a laxer planning regime than you might imagine; up until about 15 years ago there was a huge explosion of out-of-town supermarkets and shopping centres. In the second half of the 1990s some curbs were put on further expansion, but the last 10 years have seen a slow erosion of those controls. Thus supermarkets are encouraged to choose town centre before edge-of-centre and that before out-of-town. There was also a retail needs test. But although the growth of out-of-town shopping is slower than it was, they are still getting built and town centre shops, especially food shops, have long been shutting. That draining away of town centre vitality has turned into a flood with the recession of the last two years and today town centres, even in prosperous areas, are full of boarded up shops and in economically disadvantaged areas centres are in a bad way. Meanwhile our big four supermarket chains have responded to the weak restrictions on building large supermarkets with a new generation of town centre stores designed to suck up any spend that’s available and finish off the last few small competitors.
    There are a huge number of obstacles to overcome to restore traditional town centres. Britain, like America, has a “long hours culture” which is always going to make a weekly or fortnightly shop look more attractive than a community-friendly daily shop. Most of our larger towns have some kind of rail service and everywhere has a bus service of varying quality, but it’s not as good as you might think and our efforts to rebuild our city light rail systems (entirely destroyed between 1930 and 1960) over the last 20 years have been patchy and are presently stalled (unlike yours). Sure, the UK never got as far down the wholly car-dependent townscape road as yours did, but the advantage of that is that you have “low hanging fruit” opportunities to turn things round. Here they must struggle against entrenched attitudes. Despite England having the highest population density of any European country, we still persist in trying to build low-density, car-dependent, greenfield sprawl suburbs.
    So, please don’t feel hesitant about proclaiming the successes of your urbanist, transit-oriented development and smart growth movements. The UK would certainly benefit from something similar.

  14. Posted May 29, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Here are several excellent comments. Can we keep these grocery stores to 25,000 sq ft?

  15. Beth Humstone
    Posted May 30, 2010 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I live in downtown Portland, Maine and often walk to Whole Foods and the Public Market a few blocks away. (I could walk to Hannaford’s but the busy six lane roads are a deterrent.) I have noticed a lot of wire baskets on wheels being used by all kinds of people in the downtown – not just those collecting bottles and cans. Most of us in my loft building have them. (Mine has a sign on front saying, “Bellows Falls, Vermont: Doing Cartwheels for Downtown Merchants.”) In addition, in our bike storage area, I observe most bikes have saddle bags attached. We definitely embrace this small city living where we can walk and bike to meet most of our needs. Now if there was just a hardware store around the corner!

  16. Chris Saleeba
    Posted June 2, 2010 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    We also need to address access to grocery stores from an equity standpoint. The Convergence Partnership published a document called Recipes for Change: Healthy Food in Every Community. In the document they point out that low income communities face significant challenges to buying fresh fruits and vegetables. Moreover, many residents in low-income communities do not live withing walking distance of a supermarket and must travel further than higher income residents to buy groceries. My point, we need to consider ways to bring grocery stores and/or other healthy retail outlets (such as selling fresh fruits and vegetables at the corner store) to all communities.

  17. Posted August 18, 2010 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    An interesting trend, though. In fact, super markets drove small grocery stores out of business. Now, it seems the balance is reversed in favor of smaller grocery stores.

  18. Kristen Mitchell
    Posted September 10, 2010 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    I am working to recruit a full-service grocery store to a neighborhood in the city in which I work. This is a low income community, and although it is dense, it is not nearly as dense as, say, Harlem. I would like this grocery store to fit into a walkable, mixed-use environment, but I have been told repeatedly that we’d be lucky to have a grocery store even consider the neighborhood and I should not jeopardize any interest by asking for a better site plan, less parking, etc. I would really appreciate hearing about examples of recently constructed full service grocery stores in low income communities, particularly those that provide less parking than the norm or are incorporated into mixed-use buildings with parking garages. Thank you!

  19. Rod Stevens
    Posted September 23, 2010 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    I like the concept and agree with the forecast long term, but it’s generally not in the cards yet. 8000 to 10,000 people will support about 30,000 to 35,000 square feet of space, which is about right for urban locations, but not competititve with “modern” supermarkets, which after rising to a national average of about 48,000 square feet several years ago, is now back down to 45,000 sf. People say they like convenience, but the reality is that they still drive to the less expensive stores that also have in-house florists, Starbucks, drugstores and video rentals. You can cram all that in smaller format stores, but other than Supervalue, most of the chains are keeping their formats large, even Walmart, whose “neighborhood market places” is more than 40,000 square feet. The reality is that at mid-income ranges we are still car-driven.

  20. Ed Mejia
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    In order to be a more walkable America, the facilities such as supermarkets or food centers must be within the willing waking distances of Americans. Is there a study that indicates how much Americans are willing to walk to go to a neighborhood supermarket or a food center?