Survey Says!
No one wants a grocery store in the new parking garage adjacent to Felix Street Square in downtown St. Joseph.

We say “Baloney!”

The firm contracted to lease retail space in the structure developed by Mosaic Life Care at a price tag in excess of $16 million recently released the results of an on-line, and non-scientific survey to determine the community’s thoughts on what businesses or amenities might occupy the empty space.

Turns out the “community” weighing in on the matter is comprised of several hundred individuals who do not live in St. Joseph. The majority of respondents do not work downtown and around 100 of the roughly 1,000 survey participants actually live downtown. Tuning Fork’s sources reveal that “Grocery Store” was not an option in the survey and had to be entered manually under the choice of “Other.” These results sound like a justification to get out of the deal…

…but an affordable grocery store was part of the deal. Mosaic is a charitable entity with a mission focused on the health and welfare of the market it serves. If Muhammad Khan can get MZK Olive Street Market in the old post office branch at 24th and Olive Streets with all the basics and a great selection of fresh produce up and running, then surely the same deal can be worked out downtown.

Who was asked for their opinion anyway?

Most of the survey respondents had household incomes between fifty and seventy-five thousand dollars. That income range eliminates many residents within walking distance of a downtown grocery store –residents who still eat and still must find groceries somewhere. The survey obviously had no focus on residents of downtown in general, regardless of income. Who are they? Where do they live? Here is an overview of the major residential buildings in the downtown area – where hundreds of individuals could be easily and efficiently surveyed for their opinion on the need for a downtown grocery store – let alone those in single-family dwellings and smaller multi-family residences.

  • The Lofts at 415
  • Fourth Street Lofts
  • Lofts at Landmark
  • Corby Place
  • The Residences at 107 S. 6th
  • Linzco Apartments
  • Townsend & Wall Lofts
  • Chilton Place Apartments
  • San Regis Apartments
  • Wesley Senior Towers
  • City View Lofts

So we need some help?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “In 2010, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) was announced to bring grocery stores and other healthy food retailers to underserved urban and rural communities across America.” Grant funding for this initiative is available and one must certainly presume the players in the Felix Street Square parking garage have the experience and expertise to seek and acquire these funds. Grant programs viaHHS as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Treasury Department support projects including “developing and equipping grocery stores.”

Where we stand

As stated earlier, the grocery store is part of the deal. The new parking garage downtown is, in fact, a beneficiary of public funds in so much as the developer is tax exempt. Tuning Fork suggests our private sector leadership step in and negotiate a deal to bring this resource to downtown now. If the “community” is still unsure about the need for groceries downtown, ask the prospective residents of Wes Grammer’s $25 million, 130 unit, market-rate apartment project planned at the American Electric Building.

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