If all goes according to plan, a grocery store to open in October in the Argentine area of Kansas City, Kan., could become one of the Kansas City area’s most fun shopping experiences.
And it’s certainly part of one of the most interesting stories of how economic development is being brought to the urban core areas of Kansas City, Kan. The site is in a “food desert” on a former Superfund site, the Kansas City Structural Steel site, in the 21st and Metropolitan Avenue area.
The $3.2 million Save-a-Lot grocery store, with 16,000 square feet, could become a mini-destination, according to Unified Government Commissioner Ann Murguia, who represents the 3rd District. Construction is expected to be complete in October. The store is owned by the Argentine Betterment Corp., and has received local government incentives, along with a half-million in private charitable dollars.
People arriving at the store may see a pedestrian walkway from a bus stop to the front door of the store, to be funded by a $15,000 grant, Murguia said. When shoppers get to the store, on the weekends in spring or summer, they will find some healthy programs, such as someone cooking a healthy snack outdoors, she said.
Visitors will be able to sample the healthy snacks and take the recipes home with them, she added.
Programs at the store, offered by ABC and the Argentine Neighborhood Development Association, would demonstrate healthy cooking and foods information to people. ANDA, whose executive director is Murguia, recently received a $25,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation for its healthy food access initiative program that will create a community health food council for the Argentine area. She said ANDA’s role in this effort has been raising private donations.
Some of the programs to be offered at the grocery store are aimed at youths. Because many youths are latchkey kids, when they come home from school they are in charge of making their own snacks. These programs will be aimed at creating fun recipes that kids can make that are good for them, plus easy and inexpensive, she said.
There are also plans for the grocery store to have some fun events, such as a cakewalk inside the store, on Saturdays. Residents could participate in the events, with some winning prizes such as a fruit basket.
Another grant, from AT&T, will pay for a digital messaging board to be hung in the grocery store. It will carry messages about upcoming community events, and also would offer health and fitness tips, she said.
Many senior citizens who live nearby and other pedestrians are expected to be using the grocery store. Murguia said they’re currently working on an incentive for those who will bring back their shopping carts or shopping baskets to the store. Currently under consideration is a discount on groceries, but this would be decided later.
Senior citizens living at a nearby highrise might have to walk about 50 feet to get on a bus, then when they exit there will be a bus stop with a shelter and a pedestrian walkway. The goal is to have easy access for senior citizens and a walking population, she added. The walkway project is planned after the store is completed.
“We’re also lobbying to add a bus line to bring the people in upper Rosedale down to this new grocery store,” she said. Currently, some Rosedale residents’ tax dollars are going to Johnson County, she added.
The addition of the grocery store and a Walmart in the Argentine area is not a typical story for urban areas. Many urban areas can’t attract new groceries and retail stores.
“This is the first Walmart ever, east of I-635 (in Kansas City, Kan.),” she said.
It’s also not typical for Walmart to build on a brownfield site, she added. Plans for the Structural Steel site now show the grocery store and a Dollar General on the upper part of the site, with the Walmart and four smaller ancillary developments on the lower tier, she said.
Walmart construction is set to start in August, she said, with completion next year.
The story of how Walmart came to the area was all about relationships, Murguia said.
While she was attending a conference of the National Council of La Raza in Las Vegas with her sister-in-law, Janet Murguia, the president of the national organization, Commissioner Murguia happened to be seated next to a Walmart executive at a dinner, and he wanted to locate a store in an underserved area.
“I literally asked him if he would bring a Walmart to Argentine,” she said. She persistently kept contacting him through email and messages and finally he said he would build a Walmart there, she said. “I was just in the right place at the right time,” she said.
The local government worked for decades to try to redevelop the Structural Steel site, which not only is on a brownfield site, and the current site also addresses the food desert problem in the Argentine area.
Murguia said she hopes the addition of the grocery store, Walmart and other businesses will help spark more economic development in Argentine. The area had hardly any businesses when she was elected, she said, and one of her main goals has been to build up businesses again, along with stabilizing the area, taking out blight.
Now that the area has more development, there’s been more interest, including some fast-food chains wanting to locate there. Apparently some retailers base their business model on following Walmart.
“We are officially in the retail loop, sort of a hot spot in the Kansas City area,” she said.
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