22 October 2005
The lead story in tomorrow's Oklahoman business section is about the quest for a downtown grocery store and the inevitable Catch-22 (23.84 including tax) that's standing in the way: grocers won't want to enter the downtown market unless they're sure there are enough potential shoppers in the area, and folks won't move downtown unless they have some place to shop. (A sidebar includes a map of stores "within a 10- to 15-minute drive of downtown," which I think is somewhat suspect, what with its inclusion of places like the Mayfair Market, which, being just this side of 50th Street, is inevitably going to be low on downtown shoppers' lists. The Wal-Mart at Belle Isle is just as far north, but nowhere near as far west; it's basically a straight shot up Classen.)
The kicker to this story, by Steve Lackmeyer and Tricia Pemberton, is the hiring of a research firm by the city's Powers That Be (City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown OKC) to ascertain the best possible site for a downtown grocery store. There's an interesting remark from a partner from said firm, developer Larry Kilduff:
There has been a dis-investment in the urban areas to where you have a hole in the doughnut. But most of these areas still have the density that would support retail. In most of those cities, and Oklahoma City is no different, development has moved far enough away that you find the hole in the doughnut is large enough to support retail again.
Rising dough raises all hopes, or something like that.
In another sidebar, the possibility of a specialty store like Whole Foods or the H.E.B. chain's Central Market is explored. I suspect that one (not both) could do well in the area: there's a core of distinctly-upscale residents downtown, and the stores are sufficiently different from the norm to justify the occasional trip downtown from the 'burbs.
Last winter, I projected that the most likely location for such a store would be just north of Deep Deuce, in the general Flatirons area: new developments are planned for this area anyway, and there would presumably be fairly-easy access from I-235. If I'm correct, I plan to take as much credit for it as possible; if I'm wrong, well, at least I'll check out the new store.
(Update, 6:30 am, 23 October: The story is now online at NewsOK.com.)