OGDEN — Officials inside Ogden City’s Redevelopment Agency say successfully recruiting a grocery store to open shop downtown is a priority for them.
And even though that effort has proved difficult so far, the tide could soon shift.
Ogden Council member Angela Choberka broached the subject of a downtown grocery during a recent work session discussion between the council and the city’s RDA.
“A lot of people have asked me — and I think it’s a really good idea too — for a walkable grocery in the area, since we have so many people living in a concentrated area,” Choberka said. “Right now you kind of have to drive unless you want to walk across Wall Avenue (to Walmart).”
Over the past several years, hundreds of new apartments, townhomes and condominiums have been built in the city’s central business district.
Many of them — like the Tower View Apartments on the corner of Washington Boulevard and 23rd Street and several high-density housing units in the Riverbend development — have come at the behest of the city, aided by tax incentives available for projects in designated redevelopment districts.
Bringing permanent residents downtown has been part of Mayor Mike Caldwell‘s administration’s program. The belief is that a denser downtown population increases the chance of businesses flourishing, vacant buildings becoming occupied, crime decreasing and property tax revenues growing.
So as tenants continue to fill the swelling downtown housing, Choberka says it makes sense those residents be able to fill their daily needs where they live.
Brandon Cooper, the city’s Deputy Director of Community and Economic Development, said his department shares the same sentiment.
“It’s my dream of dreams, really,” Cooper said. “But it’s difficult. We’ve looked into the ... tier 1 kind of grocery stores — the Harmons, Trader Joe’s — all the way to what people would consider maybe a lower tier like a Walmart Neighborhood Market. Even Walmart said the demographics still did not justify a neighborhood store.”
Cooper said stores typically look at total number of households and income levels when determining opening for business in a new location. He said the city has enough households, but median income levels near the downtown have so far kept grocers away. Cooper said convenience stores in and around the central business district have been filling a portion of the grocery need, but that model won’t be sustainable for long.
“Ten years ago, (a grocery store downtown) wouldn’t have been possible,” Caldwell said. “But now, with housing density really increasing in the heart of our downtown, it’s more realistic than it’s probably ever been.”
The mayor said the city’s budding redevelopment of the old Hostess Factory downtown could potentially be a landing spot for a grocer.
Demolition of the vacant factory property began on Aug. 2. City officials say razing the building is the initial step in an up-and-coming, large mixed-use development enterprise at the site, a project that would stretch between Lincoln and Grant avenues — from 26th Street to the alley immediately behind businesses on the south side of 25th Street — and would include space for condos, rental units and office buildings.
“Obviously, there haven’t been any commitments, but that retail space on the ground floor would be a great place for some kind of grocery store,” Caldwell said. “As that development moves forward, that’s definitely a consideration.”
Cooper said the city considered subsidizing a local company that would have offered a downtown grocery four years ago, but that plan never materialized. He said today, companies like Kent’s Marketplace have expressed some desire to open an urban style market.
“We’ll use whatever creative ideas we can come up with to make it happen because it’s necessary,” Cooper said.