Monday, September 27, 2010

Why we ABSOLUTELY MUST have a Downtown Grocery Store

When I wrote a post a few days ago detailing why we do not need a downtown grocery store, I intended it to be the first part of a two part series giving both sides of the grocery store argument. I know there are people downtown who think the conversation about our lack of a grocery store is silly because we have grocery stores as close to us as most people in the county - and closer than many. I also had in mind that portion of my readers who are considering a move downtown but might be dissuaded by our lack of a grocery store and the angst that seems to surround that fact. I wanted them to know they would not surely starve to death.

I think there are also legitimate questions about whether a downtown grocery store would be a viable economic entity at our current population level. Some say if we build it they will come, others say we better wait until they come to build it or it will fail and we may not have another shot for a long time. I'm not sure on that one.

A couple of readers pointed out that I had only presented solutions involving cars and that this was antithetical to the reason many people move downtown - to become less automobile dependent. I will point out that in my last post my first two reasons did not involve cars. The first was the availability of restaurants within walking distance. The second was the farmer's market, which, I suppose if you were vegetarian, could support a basic diet, though one without spices and cooking oil.

Sometimes on this blog I put my opinion out front. Sometimes I try to report what I see without too much of my opinion entering the equation. Sometimes I confuse myself with the two very different approaches. My worst mistake was assuming that people could read my mind and know that a second post was coming and that I was trying to give the different slants on the topic.

So, what is the reason for having a grocery store and what is my opinion? As Wendy said in her comment on the previous story, "One allure for some downtown dwellers is the ability to live car-free, satisfying all of one's needs in walkable urban environment." Amelia added that, as a new downtown resident, she agreed with the fuss about a grocery store, stating that, "My husband and I chose downtown so that we would drive less."

I agree with both these sentiments more than I even realized I would before I lived here. I moved downtown because I constantly drove here for music, food and church. I would meet friends here, bring guests here and generally found it more interesting than any other part of town. Since I don't work downtown, I knew that would mean driving out to work, but that won't (hopefully) last forever.

So, at its root, part of the reason for the move was to avoid driving downtown all the time. It was consistent with the other choices I've made, like buying fuel efficient cars (I drive a Prius), carpooling (click here if you are interested in carpooling or other alternatives to driving) and being a committed recycler.

Once downtown, I enjoyed the benefits I had imagined, walking to everything I do except work. It was a choice of a life-style as much as a home. In many ways it feels like stepping back in time and I really like that. What I didn't realize was that it would become addictive. I regularly plot routes home when I'm at work so that I can take care of errands in order to avoid leaving the city once I'm here. As I've noted before, I can't bring myself to drive the half mile to the State Street Recycle Center, so I walk the half mile lugging a large white bag that could give someone the impression I'm homeless or that I'm Santa Claus practicing for my big night.

On the unusual weekend or week night that I have to get behind the wheel, I feel frustrated. In some ways I suspect this must seem selfish to people who don't live in a city, who might say, "Poor thing. You have to get in your car and can't have everything delivered to your little condo in the city." That may be a valid criticism. All I know is that I like the feeling of community that walking near one's home engenders. I like the idea that I'm not contributing as much to our "Red Alert - Don't Breathe the Air" days. I enjoy living more simply when possible. I think I'm not in the minority downtown.

So now you know: I very much want a downtown grocery store! I'll try not to assume you can read my mind in the future. Opinions? Vote above and I'll report the results in a few days. Comment below if you have a thought.

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4 Comments:

At September 29, 2010 at 1:47 PM , Anonymous jennyflex8 said...

"The second was the farmer's market, which, I suppose if you were vegetarian, could support a basic diet, though one without spices and cooking oil."

Just to clarify your statement above regarding the farmers' market, you can buy farm-fresh eggs, beef, chicken, and pork there, and many herbs, and even several types of salad dressing.

I agree with you overall -- a Fresh Market-sized grocery would be great for downtown, rather than a Kroger-sized place. Seems like the bigger the store, the greater the temptation to scale up your cartload (and increase your need for four-wheeled transportation). A quick trip and a totebag every couple of days would keep us caught up on our shopping and would only take a few minutes, instead of hours spent strolling endless aisles.

Thanks for your blog and keep up the good work!

 
At September 29, 2010 at 2:39 PM , Anonymous KnoxvilleUrbanGuy said...

Hey Jennyflex8,
Well no one can say my every word isn't being parsed. If I've learned anything by writing this blog, it is that people are pationate about their nazis and their food. Not that the two are remotely connected. :-) At this point, I'll concede the discussion. I think we are in about 99.9% agreement and I'm probably wrong about the .1%. I really appreciate you reading. Take care.

 
At September 29, 2010 at 5:32 PM , Blogger Amelia said...

How do we convince the CBID that downtown needs a grocery store? I was really disappointed to find out(via the Property Scope blog) that they approved funding for two buildings to be rehabbed that will most likely house cosmetology schools! Do these people not live downtown?!? My husband and I think Whole Foods would be an excellent fit.

 
At September 29, 2010 at 6:22 PM , Anonymous KnoxvilleUrbanGuy said...

This is a good question. We should have a voice in CBID. I haven't gotten involved because their meetings are during the day and I'm at work. There should be regular meetings at night in order for those of us who pay the tax to be able to express our opinions. At the same, there has to be a grocer who feels they can make a go of it. So far none seem to have stepped up to make that statement. I'm sure it must seem like a big risk.

 

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