For the past few years, the Dallas City Council says it's been trying to develop a vacant lot on Simpson Stuart and Bonnie View roads, in a section of Dallas south of Loop 12 that is 22.5 square miles but home to just 27,500 people.
What the relatively low-population area needs is another grocery store, Councilman Tennell Atkins has said, even though there apparently aren't enough people to support a grocery store. "Density of just over 1,200 people per square mile is an impediment to attracting established grocers," explains a city report.
So Atkins unveiled a plan last year to entice grocers with taxpayer dollars. Under a grant program, Dallas would provide $1.5 million for the construction of a grocery store, plus another $2.5 million to construct nearby apartments. "I think that we, the vity of Dallas, if we are going to be a great city, we have to think outside the box,'" Atkins said last year when he introduced the grant program.
Who is the lucky grocer who gets to take the grant money and make one of the city's most impoverished, underserved areas a more desirable place to live? That was up in the air, but the city's economic development committee now finally has an answer: Save-A-Lot. For those unfamiliar, Save A-Lot is the discount grocery chain that two years ago had to shutter the doors of 22 underperforming stores across seven states.
Dallas Councilman Rick Callahan was one of the officials who questioned whether the project is worth it during this week's economic development committee meeting. On the phone afterward though, he praised Atkins for trying to attract a grocery chain.
"The point is if you don't provide some kind of stimulus, if you don't provide services like retail, grocery stores, then you're never going to get the synergy or synergetic effect," to grow the population, Callahan says. He pointed out that North Dallasites make up much more of the city's tax base. "They're going to have to pay higher taxes with higher property value unless we can build up the South Dallas tax base."
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Save-A-Lot will have a long way to go if it wants to be the store to make South Dallas as economically viable as North Dallas. A Save-A-Lot store I recently dropped in had no organic produce, no kale of any kind, and no $2 buck chuck. The produce section wasn't very big, and most of the cheap food deals came in the form of boxes, cans and soda bottles. Also, where the hell were the sample ladies? For a grocery store to draw desirable rich Dallas people, there must be a friendly, elderly sample lady in every aisle offering pieces of gourmet food in tiny paper cups.
Callahan sounds cautiously optimistic. "It remains to be seen if it's going to work," he said. "I pray that it does"
The economic development committee approved the plan but it's not a done deal. The Save-A-Lot gets an official vote before the Dallas City Council on December 10.
Send your story tips to the author, Amy Silverstein.