Unless you've been living under a rock, you may have heard that Kansas City finally has a full-service grocery store downtown. On Tuesday, the downtown Cosentino's opened.
In my 13 years of living in Kansas City, only the Sprint Center's grand opening has met the same type of fanfair.
If the early crowds are any indication, the store will be a huge success -- smartly captializing on the downtown workers/residents with a huge section of the store dedicated to grab and go meal solutions and in-store dining options (including a full service salad bar).
The new grocery store will benefit the 10,000 to 15,000 downtown residents, and tens of thousands of other people who work downtown that can snag some last-minute groceries before heading home. The store will certainly raise property values on downtown residences, which will be good for both thoes residents, the city, and prospects for future development.
The question is, what took so long?
It is clear that there is a lot of excitement and demand for the downtown grocery. Why did it take this long, and a TIF-funding district, for the downtown grocery store to finally come into existance?
The long-running argument has been that the downtown population would not support a full-service grocery store. I'm not buying it. Overland Park has, to my best count, 18 full-service, non specialty grocery stores (counting Wal-Mart Supercenters). Overland Park has 170,000 residents. So that's roughly one, grocery store per every 9,500 residents in Overland Park. Downtown KCMO has had that many residents for nearly a decade now.
On top of costs of starting a downtown grocery, many of our city's codes make it even more difficult for a grocery to open. The downtown Cosentino's required 127 parking spaces in order to open -- in spite of reality that about 50% of the store's shoppers will walk to the store from their homes, from their places of work, or arrive via public transit. This would significantly impact the cost of opening such a business.
While we're celebrating the benefit to downtown residents (as we should)-- we should also be taking a long look at what city codes issues made this be such a long-overdo celebration for downtown residents? What could we have streamlined to have allowed another grocery store to serve these residents over the past decade and without TIF funding?
And then also ask, what other less high-profile neighborhoods are being affected by these barriers to starting a business that remain without basic services because they don't have TIF support?
Let's remove the unnecessary barriers to entry so residents in other neighborhoods throughout the city don't have to wait a decade for the services to catch up to the populations.
(Photo credit, the Kansas City Star).