Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Independents Need Not Apply

We have been commenting on the fact that Related has earmarked a space at the Gateway Mall for a supermarket. Unfortunately, the developer never once tried to reach out to any of the 59 independent markets in the three mile trade area around the mall. Instead they entered into negotiations with a regional chain supermarket but that went nowhere when the targeted market didn't see the economic viability of going into this poverty-stricken area at rental of $50 a foot.

This is simply unacceptable. Independent, predominately Hispanic supermarket operators, have played a crucial role in the economic renaissance of the Bronx and Northern Manhattan. The introduction of a BJ's and a suburban supermarket at Gateway would take $85 million a year from existing store owners, and severely compromise the viability of scores of local stores. Wouldn't it make more sense, from an equity standpoint, to see how one of the retail food pioneers could fit into the Gateway matrix?

After all, with Related paying the city only $2 a foot rental, it is not hard to imagine a scenario that would enable one of the independents (with food stamps and WIC of course) to locate at the BTM site at an affordable rate. Let's see if the City Council can step up and create a fairer situation at Gateway that really gives the mall a homegrown flavor.