Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Core grocer needs incentive: report

Must offset hefty initial investment

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City hall will have to offer subsidies to lure an investor to open a full-service grocery downtown.

That's the opinion of the author of a feasibility report on downtown grocery shopping -- a man who operated a family grocery store downtown for 15 years.

Highlights from the Downtown Grocery Store Feasibility Analysis:

$2 million is needed to stock a 10,000- square-foot grocery store.

The best locations for a new grocery store operation, based on nearby population, would be three sites along Portage Avenue: at the intersections of Colony, Vaughan and Carlton streets.

A large, year-round farmers market with 60-80 vendors should be established.

The Exchange District population cannot support a full-service grocery store at this time, but the best bet for the area is a series of small, European-style, boutique or high-end specialty shops focusing on single product lines, i.e. bakery, cheese, deli, sweets, fruits and vegetables.

Downtown residents have a variety of food sources available to them now, mostly small convenience stores.

Residents in the Exchange District are prepared to drive to a grocery store, but residents elsewhere in the downtown are not.

"No one's going into the grocery business to lose money," said Peter Kaufmann, the former city councillor, failed mayoral candidate and former grocery store operator, who penned the report.

"If you find the right operator, someone's going to have to sit down with them and say, 'What can we do to help?' "

The report states the downtown area could support another 10,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store -- similar to the one Kaufmann used to operate at the corner of Broadway and Donald Street, which is still in business but with a different owner.

However, Kaufmann states because of the reluctance of banks to finance such a venture and because it would likely take several years to break even, city hall could consider creating subsidies to encourage an investor to open a grocery operation.

"A new full-service grocery store is needed to sustain renewed downtown vitality, and it can be opened and operate(d) successfully in the downtown," Kaufmann writes in the report, which will be presented to the downtown development, heritage and riverbank management committee Monday morning.

Kaufmann does not state in the report what kind of subsidies would be appropriate, but he told the Free Press rebating property and/or business taxes for two to three years is probably the kind of help that's needed.

Harvey Smith, one of three city councillors whose ward includes part of the downtown, said if subsidies are necessary, he will support them.

"If we want more people living downtown, they'll want a full-service grocery store there and we have to make sure we do what we can to see that it happens," Smith (Daniel McIntyre) said.

The report, Downtown Grocery Store Feasibility Analysis, was prepared for five downtown business organizations: the CentreVenture Development Corp; Downtown Winnipeg BIZ, West End BIZ, Exchange District BIZ, and Forks North Portage Partnership.

Coun. Mike Pagtakhan, who chairs the downtown development committee and whose ward, Point Douglas, also incorporates part of the downtown, said the report is a good comprehensive review of changes in the grocery industry and how they relate to the demographics of the area.

"The report presents a very useful canvas for a good policy analysis," Pagtakhan said.

Pagtakhan said he agrees some sort of subsidy will be necessary to lure a traditional grocery store operator downtown, but added it should only be applicable for two or three years.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2013 A8

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