June 25, 2015

 

By Elizabeth Hsing-Huei Chou 

City News Service 

 

The City Council signed off this week on a deal to give away a two-acre plot of city-owned land in South Los Angeles to a developer that will build a Numero Uno supermarket in the area designated by the federal government as a “food desert.” Nogales Investors, which owns the Numero Uno brand and at least eight of its stores, plans to build a 25,000-square-foot supermarket on the former Broadway Hospital lot at 94th Street and Broadway. The hospital closed in 1988, and the property has been vacant since 1993.

 

Councilman Bernard Parks, whose district includes the site, said the city has struggled to get a grocery store into the surrounding community, which sorely lacks fresh food sources. There have been at least four attempts to bring a market to the Broadway site, and earlier plans to build apartments at the location fell victim to the economic crash in 2008, he said.

 

“You cannot find a location in this South Los Angeles community where a new store has come on line, and that has been built from scratch,” Parks told City News Service. “This will be the first one built from scratch in anyone's memory.”

 

There are no grocery stores or other amenities within “walking distance, and most people are transit-dependent,” Parks said. Many also have health issues such as obesity and diabetes, he said. Smart & Final, Northgate Gonzalez and SK Market Inc. each seriously considered bringing markets to the Broadway location, but ultimately declined to do so, according to a city report.

 

The city also tried to get interest from major grocers, such as Kroger and Vons, through grocery cooperative Unified Grocers, and from regional, ethnic and specialty markets. Grocery stores have picked up and left through the years, while the number of discount stores has increased, Parks said.

 

“Every place you see a 99 cent store, it used to be a market; it gives you a sense of how many (markets) have moved on,” he said.

 

Parks said the former hospital site will be transformed “from a vacant lot that's producing no revenue to a store that’s providing groceries to a community that doesn't have any.”

 

The “reuse value” of the two-acre site came back as negative $129,000, which “equates to a purchase price of $0,” according to a city report. The city will “sell off” the two-acre site at below-market cost – or zero dollars – to Nogales and also give $750,000 in community block grant funds to the developer. In return for the subsidies, Nogales Investors will be required to create at least 70 permanent grocery store jobs with “living wages” tied to the consumer price index, and five temporary construction jobs, as well as comply with other terms. Nogales Investors will also be expected to hire locally.

 

Under the deal, Nogales Investors is to begin building a market within six months of finalization of the land transfer, and to complete construction of the store within 36 months.  In addition to the terms for job creation, at least 25 percent of the store’s sales will need to be for fresh produce; at least one of the checkout aisles must be free of junk food; cigarette sales will be banned; and the promotion of hard liquor sales will be prohibited. Numero Uno is also required to offer a free van to customers who require help getting their groceries home, and organize quarterly health fairs. The South Los Angeles area is considered a “food desert,” a U.S. Department of Agriculture term that applies to a low-income area with little access to fresh foods.

 

The corner where the Numero Uno is envisioned was chosen by the city's Economic and Workforce Development Department – which received a grant from the nonprofit foundation California Endowment – as a “high priority” spot for building a supermarket, according to a city report. About half of the original 4.2 acres of the hospital property was recently developed into the 49-unit Broadway Villas senior housing, with some of the remaining space set aside for a mixed-use development that includes a supermarket. The mixed-use concept for the site was approved by the City Council in 2013.

Category: Community



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