Dallas is taking its next best shot at solving the food desert crisis that has plagued southern Dallas for years. Wednesday, the City Council unanimously signed off on handing $5.7 million in tax incentives and city bond funds to Kroger and grocery-delivery company Ocado Solutions if the grocery giant builds a 350,000-square-foot delivery warehouse at the intersection of Telephone and Bonnie View roads in southern Dallas.
“This deal represents a big step forward for southern Dallas, and I’m hopeful it can be a transformative partnership for our entire city,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said after the council approved the incentives.
As part of the potential deal, Kroger will be required to bring 410 $15-per-hour jobs to Dallas. The company will also partner with Dallas ISD and Richardson ISD workplace learning programs and with local colleges to "discuss workforce collaborations."
“I believe we are offering a robust, detailed and competitive incentive package, and I commend the staff, my council colleagues, and Kroger and Ocado for their work on it,” Johnson said. "It would provide for hundreds of jobs that pay living wages. It would reward the hiring of Dallas residents. It would bring hundreds of thousands of dollars back to the city for services for our residents every year. And it would facilitate community engagement with our higher education institutions.”
If it wants the cash, Kroger will also be required to review southern Dallas for a potential new retail store, and determine within two years whether its existing store in Wynnewood Village can be remodeled. None of that guarantees that southern Dallas will get the new grocery store it desperately needs, but Kroger has agreed that delivery from the potential fulfillment center will be available to all Dallas residents, regardless of their neighborhood.
"If we find that there are areas being red-lined, that would be a default of the contract," said Robin Bentley, the city's assistant director of economic development. "We'll monitor their delivery areas when we go out to monitor their workforce and their wage levels."
District 3 City Council member Casey Thomas has led the fight against food deserts in Dallas. Wednesday, he praised Kroger's plans to give southern Dallas students work experience in their own neighborhood, but highlighted that there are still many in his community who won't benefit from wider access to grocery delivery.
"We have a number of food deserts in Dallas, but in southern Dallas in particular," Thomas said. "I'm on board 100% with innovation, but we have a lot of seniors, and those seniors go to the grocery store."
According to Kroger officials Wednesday at City Hall, the fulfillment center could be completed as few as 24 months after the program gets off the ground, leading to a 2023 opening date.