Closing the Grocery Gap


You may have heard of the "grocery gap" between suburbs and the inner city–the more limited availability of access to big grocery stores in urban areas. Continuing my dig through some sadly neglected, but very useful, old magazines and professional journals that have been piling up, I came across this article on the topic from the April issue of Governing. While mostly concerned with a Pennsylvania state House members attempts to gin up government money and public-private partnerships to get more grocery stores in the inner city, and other state and local governments trying to emulate him, the article does point out:

What's become increasingly clear in the past few years is that the problems of running an urban supermarket aren't a result of things going wrong after the store opens. The issue is the myriad obstacles that stand in the way of getting the store built.

As obvious as the needs are, and as well-documented as the opportunities for profit may be, it takes forever to get an urban supermarket deal done — 10 years in the case of the first Pathmark in Newark; nearly as long before Publix opened its doors in the inner-city Atlanta neighborhood of East Lake. One reason is simple bureaucratic clumsiness. "Urban environments have an arcane development process and a lot of companies don't have the stomach for it," says Buzz Roberts, who has run a supermarket assistance program for the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corp. "You can do two or three stores in the suburbs in the time it takes to do one in the inner city."

Whole article here.