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Walmart’s closing could be a big opportunity for Midtown
BY JABAAR EDMOND, Contributor
ST. PETERSBURG – As the Midtown community braced for the closure of yet another grocery store within the last five years, solutions seem hard to come by for Tangerine Plaza.
Walmart announced that it would be closing its doors in March, but surprised shoppers by closing earlier this week.
The community is left wondering if there will ever be a solution to the problem of big businesses coming and leaving before the tax incentives expire. This type of incentive-based selection process only seems to leave the community high and dry.
Community groups have been scheduling meetings to discuss the economic and psychological impact this latest store closing will cause. With two major grocery chains pulling out within four years, the perceived notion that Midtown residents are unworthy or unprofitable to major corporations is rearing its ugly head. This is a huge blow to the psyche of an already bruised community.
Some groups ponder solutions, while everyday citizens figure out new ways to get groceries or lifesaving medications. The entire Tangerine Plaza came under foreclosure late last year, and Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the city stills plans to go ahead with the purchase of the plaza.
A community meeting last month at the Enoch Davis Center included the owner of the property, Larry Newsome, City Councilman Karl Nurse, the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, the Dream Defenders and other concerned citizens.
With the city potentially becoming a stakeholder, it could open up a whole new reality and opportunity for the community. Being city-owned, a community owned grocery store or co-op where the city can acquire a franchise or open their own store is possible.
This new grocery store cannot only be a place where food is bought, but it could also be a job incubator or source of employment for generations in this community with funding sources coming from the CRA and other grants and initiatives that this project will instantly qualify for.
There needs to be an open minded, thinking outside of the box strategy for the adversity and challenges that are faced in this already struggling community.
With property values on the rise and rents increasing in some places, it will actually secure community income. Profits can be used to lowering the price. Theoretically, this could be the most affordable grocery store in the city, and no doubt this model will be copied in hard-hit communities everywhere.
This Walmart closing is not an isolated event. There has been a giant wave of closures throughout the United States, with more to come in 2017.
This could be a beautiful opportunity, as it will give the community a chance to own a very valuable piece of real estate within the CRA and could leverage that ownership into opening up a community-owned franchised big-box store with the ability to use profits to lower the prices.
Residents would have the opportunity to make better food choices without breaking the bank, summertime employment and after school employment for the youth would be possible, upper -level management trainee opportunities as well as entrepreneur opportunities could all come out of this idea.
Using this large facility not only as a grocery store but also as a business incubator to empower the community is an opportunity that cannot be passed up, especially with CRA money available.
This would be a long-term process that would ensure that the community could use CRA dollars in a visible way. This could be the flagship CRA project that perhaps would stand for decades for the community and by the community.