Greater City Providence

Natural Food grocery sought for West Side location

Image from WBNA

The WBNA has issued a Request for Proposals for a natural food grocer in their new building at 1577 Westminster Street.

West Side group seeks natural foods grocery to partner

Big incentives for “right fit” grocer or co-op in newly constructed, green retail space

Providence, Rhode Island – October 4, 2010 – The West Broadway Neighborhood Association (WBNA) seeks proposals and is offering substantial incentives for a healthy, affordable, natural grocery store or food cooperative to occupy the ground floor retail space of its newly constructed building on Westminster Street.

On a site that was once a vacant and blighted auto shop, the sparkling new mixed-use building at 1577 Westminster Street is the result of collaboration between the WBNA and SpurwinkRI, two organizations that came together with the express purpose of creating a place that would contribute positively to the community.

“The community has been integral to this project from its inception. The WBNA held a design competition, and neighbors chose the winning design,” said Kari Lang, Executive Director of the WBNA. “But the crucial focus of the project came when the community repeatedly asked for a local, affordable and natural grocery store. It became imperative to address that need by opening the ground floor to a local food co-op or small business owner.”

To help meet the financial needs of a startup grocery business, the WBNA secured a three year Community Impact Grant from the United Way to attract and provide incentives to an urban local food cooperative initiative in its new space. The grant enables the neighborhood group to offer rent subsidies, solar panels, and other perks, as well as funds towards refrigeration equipment and an Outreach Coordinator for the chosen applicant.

“We are thrilled to have a grant from the United Way that allows us to offer substantial supports to a grocery so that it can become a strong, stable business,” said WBNA Treasurer Jean Poehler. “Speaking as a former small business owner and advisor of business plans, this truly is a tremendous opportunity. And the buzz is palpable – neighbors are thrilled that, by early next year, they can walk to buy affordable, natural food.”

By its occupancy date early next year, the building is sure to give back on many levels. The structure is not only designed with green materials and with architectural sensitivity to its historic neighborhood, but also contains the mission and purpose of its two nonprofit owners. SpurwinkRI is to provide affordable housing to individuals with disabilities on the upper floors, while the WBNA serves the needs of the community on the ground floor by bringing a healthy, affordable, natural food grocery or cooperative to its retail space.

The 1577 Westminster Street project has become the centerpiece of the WBNA’s “SWELL” campaign that supports local food systems and community economic development. “SWELL” is an acronym for “Shop, Work, Eat and Live Local,” and is at the heart of the group’s request for proposals. The group seeks a grocer or co-op that carries Rhode Island and other local products and that would be open to the public as a full service grocery store.

For a copy of the Request for Proposal please contact Kari Lang at the WBNA at or 831-9344. Proposals are due on Oct. 28, 2010.

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  • What ever happened to that food co-op that was supposed to open on on the west side? I would’ve become a member had it opened… but wasn’t willing to part with my money knowing it might not happen.

  • My understanding is that Urban Greens opted not to go forward with the project.

  • Now if someone would only do something about a grocery store Downtown……….

  • I’m optimistic that it won’t be because Walmart calls for a pretty big floorspace that I don’t see downtown. Just a good mix would be nice.

  • Urban Greens just sent out a notice regarding their decision to not occupy that space for a number of reasons, not least among them was WBNA’s urgent need to have a tenant in the space by the end of January 2011, and the financial commitment that Urban Greens would need to make to that was not practical for them. Its too bad. Now Urban Greens and its members are left to wonder if WBNA finds a natural foods tenant for the space if there is room on the West Side for 2 such shops. (or at least, this member wonders that)

  • Not saying I like Walmart as a company but the 20,000 sqft footprint they are planning to use in urban areas could easily sit on less than an acre. They aren’t even planning to use the Walmart name. The Whole Foods on Butler is about 14,000 sqft and sits on an acre of land. East Side Market is about 25,000 sqft.

    There may not be space in downtown proper for it but there is plenty of space on the periphery. The 195 land could easily accommodate it as part of a large building. The parcel on Broad St across from Crossroads is another good location and could be worked into the RIPTA mini hub they are proposing.

    The issue with a downtown location is the cost per square foot to own and operate. It tends to keep prices high. Walmart has the merchandising volume and logisitics to keep prices at a reasonable level. The question is can a company like Walmart be persuaded to build it into a mixed use building without a big parking lot in front of it?

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