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Examples of Grocery Stores Supporting Urban Neighborhoods

With the City attempting to lure a grocery store to the corner of Ellicott and Clinton streets, here are two previous posts about urban supermarkets in Los Angeles and Portland.

Time and time again we have seen people ‘vote’ for a better urban environment based on where they choose to live and shop.  It is why neighborhoods with a traditional urban fabric that encourage walking, provide stimulating streetscapes, and have a mix of necessary building uses, building types, and building ages – Elmwood Village in Buffalo, Silver Lake in Los Angeles, Mission District in San Francisco, or Brooklyn today in New York City – have suffered from gentrification.  On the other hand, urban renewal areas and many of the first ring suburbs have suffered from economic disinvestment and population loss as a result of an urban fabric that prioritized convenience of automobile travel to the pedestrian.

One of the most necessary uses for an urban neighborhood, which should complement a strong urban residential neighborhood, is the grocery store.  While Downtown Buffalo does not currently have the residential population to support a grocery store on the scale of a traditional Wegmans; it will be approaching that population threshold in the coming years.  At that time residents in Downtown, Allentown, and other adjacent neighborhoods should be given a market that encourages an urban residential neighborhood rather than the suburban style Wegmans on Amherst Street or the Tops on Niagara Street which break up the rhythm and fabric of the neighborhoods in which they are located.

In cities across America we are seeing evidence of a shift as ‘Big box’ retailers that have nearly exclusively focused on suburban development have recently turned their attention to urban locations.  Walmart, Target, JC Penny, and others are finding attractive demographics in many urban communities and are changing their ‘one-size fits all’ mentality when it comes to store design, parking requirements, and merchandise selection.

Downtown Rochester has plans for a downtown, mixed-use development with potentially a Tops as an anchor tenant.  Moreover, there are numerous examples from Los Angeles – my current city of residence – of ‘big box’ grocery stores that are now part of mixed-use developments.

The following existing grocery stores all possess a better relationship to the street and pedestrian, still provide sufficient parking for automobiles, and have been just as, if not more, successful than their suburban style counterparts:

1 - Ralphs Downtown1. Ralph’s (Equivalent to Tops) – Downtown Los Angeles, 645 W. 9th Street

2 - WalMart Chinatown2. WalMart Marketplace – Chinatown, Los Angeles, 701 Cesar Chavez Avenue

3 - Ralphs Los Feliz3. Ralph’s – Los Feliz, 5429 Hollywood Boulevard

4 - Fresh and Easy South Los Angeles4. Fresh and Easy (Equivalent to Trader Joe’s) – South Los Angeles, 1025 E. Adams Boulevard

Those existing grocery stores have been so successful that they have encouraged the following projects that are already entitled and scheduled to start construction within the coming year:

5 - Whole Foods Downtown Los Angeles5. Whole Foods – Downtown Los Angeles

6 - Whole Foods Glendale6. Whole Foods – Glendale

7 - Whole Foods Playa Vista7. Whole Foods – Playa Vista

8 - Ralphs Arts District8. Ralph’s – Arts District, Downtown Los Angeles, One Santa Fe

9 - Ralphs - USC University Village9. Grocery Store – USC University Village

How the City of Buffalo develops over the coming years will signal if we are headed in the right direction towards creating a better city for people to live, work, and play.   These grocery stores provide examples of new forms of development that accomplish that goal for Los Angeles.  Future development in Buffalo can learn much from innovative projects in other cities.  Developments that can improve our urban environment while still complementing the unique urban character of Buffalo.

If applied correctly, the Buffalo Green Code should enable those types of developments; but it will also take courage from enlightened local government officials, developers, planners, architects, and citizens to demand a higher design standard rather than accept the status quo.

Ryan Kucinski graduated with honors from the University of Southern California with a Masters Degree in Urban Planning specializing in Urban Design and Historic Preservation and received a Certificate of Real Estate Development.  Before that, Ryan completed his undergraduate education in his hometown at SUNY Buffalo with a B.A. in Environmental Design and a Architecture minor.  Ryan currently works as an Assistant Planner in Los Angeles for an environmental consulting firm.  He also acts as a guest critic for graduate urban design studios at the University of Southern California.

 

Written by Ryan Kucinski

Ryan believes urban environments should be designed for people. A native of Buffalo who studied Environmental Design at UB before receiving a Master's of Urban Planning at the University of Southern California, Ryan is currently working to improve the livability of his hometown as urban planner in Downtown Buffalo.

View All Articles by Ryan Kucinski
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