Could “the market” by Safeway be one solution to our downtown grocery problem?

"the market" by Safeway occupies this urban corner in downtown San Jose. Perhaps it could be a solution for downtown Spokane?

“the market” by Safeway occupies this urban corner in downtown San Jose. It’s a fully-stocked store. Perhaps it could be a solution for downtown Spokane?

Supermarkets are important. Though in recent years, people have been moving away from traditional grocery stores and toward specialty retailers like Trader Joe’s and discount clubs like Costco, the problem of food remains a critical issue. In a vibrant urban downtown, it’s essential that a grocery store serve the population by providing nutritious, inexpensive products. It’s one of the necessities that will make-or-break a downtown from a livability and residential perspective. No grocery store? Good luck convincing families and young people to locate there.

Currently, Spokane has no real downtown grocery store. Yes, Main Market operates on the east end of Main, but it’s focused primarily on organic and specialty items (it’s more of a Huckleberry’s than a Rosauer’s). And yes, Grocery Outlet remains open near Browne’s Addition, but that’s not within walking distance of most downtown residents. No, what Spokane needs is a mainline or more traditional grocer. Something like Safeway. It could be one good fit. The chain in 2008 opened a store in downtown San Jose called “the market,” which offered everything found in a typical suburban store, but in a smaller format better-suited to downtown streetfront locations. It’s done quite well, and helped to usher in a sort of renaissance of downtown housing in that city. Perhaps Spokane could move in that direction? Or maybe Rosauer’s, as a local company, could offer a home-grown solution?

First, however, a developer needs to propose a building with enough first-floor retail space. That’s the most realistic scenario that would result in a downtown grocery store. What incentives are being offered for new construction downtown? Is there an incentive for opening a new grocery store there? What can be done to reduce red-tape for developers without compromising reasonable design standards? These are the questions that city leaders and citizens should be asking as we attempt to build a housing base downtown.

What do you think? Does downtown Spokane need a more traditional grocery store? Share your thoughts below in our comments section, on Twitter, on Facebook, or in person. We love to hear from you.

8 thoughts on “Could “the market” by Safeway be one solution to our downtown grocery problem?

  1. Fantastic recommendation for downtown. Especially with the potential for increased urban housing in East Central should the U-District Bridge become a reality a quality general grocery store will become essential for the core. Great to know that safeway is trying new models for success.

  2. Greenstone is trying to lure Wholefoods to the Kendall Yards development but W.F. keeps telling them that they want one store in Spokane, but will not locate north of the river or south of 3rd. Meaning they want to be in downtown. Some one just needs to come up with the right development for them. Being a Kendall Yards resident thought we really want a grocery in our development, but I don’t think there is enough demand for both downtown and K.Y. yet. So I am hoping for a grocer in Kendall Yards first.

    • I’ve heard similar rumors as well. It should be interesting to see what happens, and I agree with you on Kendall Yards v. Downtown. Long-term, the hope is that both areas will be able to sustain a full-service store.

  3. I would say Vancouver, Wa has a similar dilemma as they try to rediscover their downtown identity & attract a new generation of folks to some of the mixed use residential that is being built. Agreed, that a grocery is a vital component. A former New Seasons Market (local Portland grocery chain) Exec, recently launched her new “fresh convenient” market called in North Portland with another coming soon in SE PDX. Basically a “micro” market 1/6 the size of her New Seasons competition, much like you mention with Safeway ( I assume). Certainly its a model that a local supermarket could clone. Kendall Yards would be a good location for something like this. A location with a surging level of pedestrian/bike traffic to sustain its vitality. Keep up the great work on your blog!

  4. Honestly I’ve always hoped the Downtown grocery store would be a local business, like more of a Rosauer’s . I’ve heard of Whole Foods possibility bout would almost rather see them in Kendall Yards then Downtown.

    Interesting tidbit: If you look up the renderings of the renovated Sherwood Building, the art shows one of the new tenants as a market of some kind. I’d assume there is nothing leased / sold there yet since construction is still ongoing but it may mean the building owners have thought of marketing towards a grocery.

  5. whole foods is not the answer to the grocery issue downtown or around the core. They do not serve the folks who need a store in the area and would shop there on a daily basis. Many people would not be able to afford an apple from whole foods. I too, hope it would be a local grocery store. Why so many people buy into the whole foods concept is beyond me. However, New Seasons did good in Portland.

  6. Pingback: The most important downtown Spokane business | #spokanerising

  7. I have long thought that we needed a “real” grocery store in the downtown core of Spokane. And, yes, I hear about new apartments/condos and wonder how we will turn our downtown into a walking/ living place when there is no actual grocery store. The small markets aren’t what is needed. Why doesn’t Rosauer’s or some other local business think of this and do it???

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