Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mid-Week Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market News Roundup

Southern California Market Region

(Retail) anchor away: A brand new retail shopping center, the Yucaipa Oak Retail Center in Yucaipa, California, which features a new, built from the ground up Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery store as its retail anchor, is nearly completed, reports the Redlands Daily Facts newspaper based in Redlands, which is located near Yucaipa.

The new shopping center, where construction began on November, 2007, is expected to open on about September 5. Read the full report here.

In addition to the Tesco Fresh & Easy grocery store, which is about 13,000 -to- 14,000 square feet, a Firestone Complete Auto Care Center is going in the shopping center. Additionally, there is an 8,000 square foot building designed to have smaller retail stores and medical and professional offices in it in the shopping center.

Unlike the majority of the Fresh & Easy grocery markets currently open in Southern California, Nevada and Arizona, which are in remodeled buildings that formerly had retail stores in them, the new Yucaipa store is built from the ground up using Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's new store prototype design. These built from the ground up stores are much more attractive and functional (which doesn't take much with all due resepct) than the stores in the remodeled buildings, including having many more windows, along with skylights that let natural light into the store's interior.

The store pictured at the top of the page is one of Tesco's Fresh & Easy prototype design stores. The particular store pictured is in the Point Loma neighborhood in San Diego, California. It's scheduled to open on August 13.

Tesco is opening, and plans to open, more of these built from the ground up stores, including having them serve as the primary retail anchor in shopping centers similar to the Yucaipa Oak Retail Center.

Another store opening, another protest: Fresh & Easy Buzz has been extensively covering the UFCW union's campaign to get Tesco officials to meet with leaders of the retail supermarket clerks' union to discuss unionizing its Fresh & Easy grocery stores, as regular readers are aware--and as a search typing in UFCW on the blog search box at the top will bring you stories about.

Yesterday we wrote here about a protest of a Fresh & Easy store grand opening by the Pico Rivera, California City Council, and the pro-union message that city's mayor gave to Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market executives when he attended the grand opening of the retailer's first store in the Southern California city.

This morning, Tesco held a grand opening for a new store in the Southern California city of Hisperia. In addition to the store's employees, Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market executives, members of the media and customers attending this morning's festivities, about a dozen protesters supporting the UFCW union also were at the grand opening, according to a report in the Hisperia Star, the city's daily newspaper. Read the report here.

According to the story, it appears the protesters didn't stop a crowd from attending the grand opening, in search of freebies and discounts. That doesn't surprise Fresh & Easy Buzz, since in this poor economy finding food bargains tends to trump concerns over issues like labor relations and unionization by a significant factor for most consumers. Of course, some would argue the two issues are rather closely related. Others say: bring on the freebies and bargains.

Mule's plan gets an 'ass' kicking, Fresh & Easy's gets a positive nod: Curious? Click here to learn more.

Las Vegas, Nevada Metro Market

A new $50 million, 86,000-square-foot shopping center is nearing completion in the southwest valley in the Las Vegas Metropolitan region, adjacent to the Southern Hills Hospital. The five-building project is being developed by Longford Properties, a 17-year-old Las Vegas-based commercial builder. Longford Shoppes at Southern Hills will debut in October at Fort Apache and Sunset roads, reports the Las Vegas Business Press, a business publication based in the city.

The 10-acre complex is anchored by a Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery store and a Walgreens drugstore, which together occupy 30,000 square feet. The Fresh & Easy store is 13,000 -to- 14,000 square feet. Other announced tenants include Subway, Moxie Java Bistro and Planet Wings, among others. The center is reportedly 45 percent pre-leased.

The new Fresh & Easy grocery store in the new center is a built from the ground up store like the one in Yucaipa, California. As we mentioned in that item at the very top of the page, Tesco is making a strong effort to build and more of these built from the ground up stores, making them the food and grocery retailing anchors in various shopping centers like this one in Las Vegas and the one in Yucaipa.

Doing so demonstrates in our analysis Tesco's long-term commitment to the three markets it's currently in. It's one thing to put stores in remodeled empty retail buildings that a retailer can get on the cheap, it's another to make major investments to anchor shopping centers with brand new, built from the ground up stores like Tesco is increasingly doing. Doing so demonstrates long term commitment.

Phoenix, Arizona Metro Market

For about three decades downtown Phoenix, Arizona, like the down towns of numerous cities throughout the U.S., has been hungry for a supermarket that offers a decent selection of groceries and fresh foods at a reasonable price.

It's about to get one, possibly a second--and recently got a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market not too far from the city's downtown core.

Read this story in today's Arizona Republic newspaper to learn more about the developments, including the soon to be open small-format 9,000 square foot Bashas-owned A.J.'s Fine Foods store in downtown Phoenix.

Fresh & Easy Buzz has predicted for sometime one of the next top trends in food retailing and in community planning will be the location of numerous small-format grocery stores of various types in city downtowns across the U.S.

The Arizona Republic piece discusses this as well. We predict, and will continue to report on and write about, this urban small-format grocery store trend will continue to develop, then really accelerate beginning early next year.

Upcoming New Markets: Sacramento in Northern California

Tesco Fresh & Easy Dissent Building in Sacramento's Oak Park Neighborhood: From the Midtown Grid, (reprinted below) a blog covering Sacramento's low-income, Oak Park neighborhood, which is underserved by supermarkets, where as we've reported and written about extensively, Tesco plans to open a Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market grocery store next year.

Thursday 31 of July, 2008

Dear Midtowners, Downtowners, Sactowners, and especially Oak Parkers,

Must it be true that any businness and building on an empty lot is better than the empty lot even if the business and building are devoid of character, constitution, and ethics.

Beware the crushing power of a suburban meteor landing on urban Oak Park! Yes, folks, there is a second British Invasion underway. The first was a miracle. You say you wanna a revolution, the second might very well bloody our neighborhoods, starting with historic, diverse, and integrated Oak Park.

That's right, Fresh & Easy Grocery is really fresh & hard, as in stale bread. Over the past two weeks of backroom and public negotiations, The Guru has digested everything that squawks mediocrity and shame on Corporate America. Literally, The Guru has become sick to the stomach as of last night and unable to key until this morning. The Guru must find shelter in meditation by re-reading Martin Luther King's speeches to identify where he ever said to abandon The Dream.

Fresh & Easy along with the notable absence of leadership from Oak Park's City Councilperson Lauren Hammond has invaded Oak Park and plans to run roughshod over urban revitalization and neighborhood collaboration despite its effusive overtures on its web site and blogs about community partnership.

While this hack team of negotiators, including architects, builders, developers, and PR spinners, doesn't even bear one Fresh & Easy face (an actual employee/representative who can speak for the company) at the table to talk to the community, Fresh & Hard imagines that we will build a giant front-facing, 3-sided parking lot in the middle of Broadway and Oak Park's Historic Business District without an iota of neighborhood input.

When we started these so-called negotiations, we discovered that Fresh & Easy's Team of Mediocrity had already met with our City Councilperson 4 times and that she insisted on an even worse design than the one that they ended up with at this point.

Hammond's voice helped determine that this 15,000 square foot building should break the urban wall of businesses and housing along Broadway and defy the hard-won Oak Park Design Guidelines for corporate exception and deception at this opportune moment of redevelopment and revitalization.

Hammond's voice determined along with a mediocre security analysis by an ex-POP officer (Problem-Oriented Police) who had never seen the community's plan (and who ultimately supported it) that a front-facing parking lot on Broadway was a safety issue and good urban design. In fact she insisted that the parking lot should be even bigger and wanted to put the 15,000 square foot building in the middle of the lot so that parking surrounded it on all sides in order to prevent imaginary muggings in Oak Park by letting drive-by police cars have a site line into the majority of the parking area.

Of course, no one on this team of geniuses realized that their design might cause "insecurity" while also decreasing the safety of anyone in a wheelchair, on foot, by bicycle, or with stroller. "Eyes on the street" is a very old urban design philosophy and most people understand that means having residents who can see onto a particular space (not police officers). Logically, most people also can determine that creating vibrant social spaces as part of large projects reduces the possibility of crime precisely because it is too social and visible.

What Hammond didn't do, very likely on purpose, is ensure that Fresh & Hard of Hearing ever met with the community other than to deliver a flyer and say hello back in March & April to announce that the company was considering 34th and Broadway, a St. HOPE Development site that's been empty for more than 10 years, as a potential location.

Again, just because Oak Parkers have lived with a large empty lot and lived in a food desert for decades waiting for institutional racism to clear up enough, does it imply that they should bite into the first offering whether or not it meets their own complete vision of their Historic Core? Fresh & Easy on the Details flat out told Oak Park leaders that Oak Park was suburbia, that Broadway is suburbia, and that Oak Park was lucky to get any grocery store, especially theirs. It's nice to know that we can be defined from the outside of the neighborhood. Isn't that the problem of the past 40 years?

At no time while she was pouring over at least 10 iterations of design did Hammond stick up for Oak Park and say hey, when is Fresh & Hard of Hearing going to get input from the neighbors? When does the Oak Park Neighborhood Association get to see these actual designs to give you feedback? When is the design charette to ensure that we will meet the needs of the people for the next 25-50 years? Are there any environmental issues from EIR (Environmental Impact Report) that are of concern? Where is the parking study?

No, in the infinite wisdom of Hammond Council, Oak Park should bear a crater of Natomas-like, Rocklin-like, and Elk Grove-like suburban grocery modeling for the next 25-50 years. Because each of those suburban models is at present economically and socially sustainable? Laughable but not laudable or wise.

Midtown isn't just hip; it's urban, logical, and profitable precisely because of its clear mixed use making it a destination, a place, where people see people. Fear-based thinking begets fear-based results.

With gas at $5.00/gallon and many Oak Parkers already on a bike, the community proposed a walkable, bikeable, stoller-friendly and ADA-friendly design that would stimulate new mixed use development to match the dynamic 40 Acres Project across Broadway as well as the future Good Will site plan proposed by an actual urban genius, Ron Vrilakas, across 34th Street.

Of course, Oak Parkers desire a grocery store within walking distance of myriad houses, precisely because it is urban and not suburban. But walking distance should mean that the project is walkable, bikeable, strollable, or rollable for someone in a wheelchair safely to get to work or to go grocery shopping without a car as armory.

Oak Parkers without any help from the City welcomed this project to end the food desert on that side of Oak Park, specifically for Central and North Oak Park as well as its neighbors in Tahoe and Curtis Parks. Although this project, unlike the Safeway at 19th and S would not add any mixed use elements, such as housing, office, or additional retailers to a very large Broadway lot, Oak Parkers pragmatically determined to welcome this project with a few meaningful adjustments.

1. Place the parking to the side and behind the building where much of it already existed anyway.

2. Instead of a socially useless grass patch of emptiness along 34th Street up to Broadway, embrace a hardscape plaza with some seating out there so that neighbors and business lunch folks could gather (likely to eat prepared foods from Fresh & Not So Easy). This part seemed to add profitability to Not-So-Fresh or Wise's fat bottom line.

Oak Parkers only accidentally found out about the existing site plan and available renderings about 3-4 weeks ago thanks to a neighbor's inquiry. What that neighbor saw potentially damaged the long term investment that the person had just made in purchasing a new 4th Avenue Loft, also designed by Vrilakas in the Oak Park Historic Core.

The only reason that the community voice was heard 2 weeks ago Thursday was that a few Oak Parkers with architectural and planning backgrounds understood the dimensions of the process and searched out the date of the design hearing that's usually a rubber stamp process down at 300 Richards Boulevard. Neighbors discovered that the hearing was illegally noticed because the City only sent letters to neighbors within 100 feet of this massive project on 1 block rather than on all 4 sides.

During this 2-week reprieve in which Fresh & Hardly Hearing Anything claimed that it thought it had met with the community (a sign of economic Alzheimer's that never bodes well for future interaction between a monster corporation and the community that houses it), neighbors showed up in droves to try to save the deal by providing 3 sets of pro bono site plans and architectural renderings as well as a sophistocated environmental security analysis using landscape architecture.

Neighbors first suggested rotating the building back to Broadway, but Fresh and Definitely Not Easy rejected that outright even though that was part of their original design. Neighbors then compromised by moving the building with the same orientation up toward Broadway by 15 feet and replacing the poorly imagined landscape with a hardscape good for socializng but also safe for the people coming off the bus stop and anyone on foot (with or without baby stroller), bike, or wheelchair.

Again, they were rebuffed. After long negotiations last week, we thought we had reached compromise when neighbors kept the orientation allowed for a 3rd driveway at 34th near Broadway as long as it was only an exit so that cars wouldn't turn left off Broadway and then immediately left of 34th likely causing car accidents but ensuring difficulty for anyone not in a car. Again neighbors acquiesced to a landscape with enough hardscape to be relevant and social at highly visible Broadway where future small businesses would birth.

After Fresh & Hard Delays, everyone finally met again yesterday evening to discover no architect, no renderings, and no movement from 2 weeks ago. Fresh & Easy couldn't move a single parking space even though their design created what they had called deadspace facing Broadway where cars had no easy exit and had to make awkward turns to get out of the parking lot safely. That's right, Fresh & Never Showed Up at the Table called turning part of the landscape into hardscape a huge compromise and win for the community.

When neighbors asked literally to move, not eliminate, 2 parking spaces out of 67 from the front to the side, Fresh & Easy's proxy negotiators claimed that they could not conscionably bring such a design back to the real Fresh & Easy. It would be rejected out of hand.

Oak Park was ignored and under-invested in chiefly because of poor city management and institutional racism; however, it's been a new day for at least a few years now and that day is growing brighter. This imperative neighborhood (that all of Sacramento should embrace) should express its own hard-won voice and stand as it needs to stand for a DREAM that good people, rich or poor; black, white, Asian, or Latino; Christian, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Bahai or Muslim, should live together shoulder to shoulder and break fresh bread with easy hearts in Oak Park's own urban vision of itself.

Be inspired. Keep it real. The promised land of MLK & Honey is Oak Parkers for the taking and if we live together and plant the seeds of a farmer's market, community gardens, and urban farms in the hood, then we shall overcome the food desert without another 40 years passing.

The Guru

Fresh & Easy Buzz Editor's Note: Click here to read a selection of past stories in Fresh & Easy Buzz about Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood and Tesco's Fresh & Easy.

No comments: