The Grand Rapids Planning Commission has approved a $4.1 million plan to repurpose a vacant building with a new grocery store and corporate office, which neighborhood leaders say will support ongoing efforts to revive the city’s Roosevelt Park area.
The planning commission on Thursday approved the project, which calls for a new Supermercado Mexico grocery store at 900 E. Cesar Chavez Ave. SW and 919 Caulfield Ave. SW on the city’s southwest side.
The adaptive reuse project is expected to create 55 jobs. Plans call for renovating an existing 33,419-square-foot, two-story building and adding about 5,400 square feet of additional space as well as a rooftop deck. An upgraded parking lot with 66 spaces and new storefront windows also are part of the site plans.
Supermercado Mexico co-owner Javier Olvera previously said that company executives saw the property as a “big opportunity.”
“One of the main reasons we purchased this is we saw the potential,” Olvera said in June 2022. “We knew that with the growth of Grand Rapids, this would be a good remodeling project and investment.”
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Multiple neighbors raised concerns during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, primarily about the potential loss of street parking and the onsite sale of beer and wine.
One neighbor and landlord with properties in the area said the neighborhood doesn’t need another retail alcohol store, and raised concerns about people potentially congregating at the site.
However, store representatives say they aim to add vibrancy to the business district, which drew support from planning commission members.
“We are entering into this area and want it to thrive just as much as we hope to thrive as business owners,” Ben Cochran, general manager at Supermercado Mexico, said in response to the public comments.
Cochran also said beer and wine sales at Supermercado’s three other locations in Grand Rapids and Wyoming make up only about 5% of company’s total sales. Store owners plan to bring dozens of jobs into the neighborhood with the project, which also would include Supermercado’s corporate offices, Cochran added.
While planning commissioners agreed about the need to address current loitering on the vacant property, the development will likely improve the situation.
“I believe that taking a vacant building, putting more windows in it and having more activity around it will lower crime and lower nuisance factors that were talked about in terms of loitering, drinking and inappropriate behaviors in the area,” said Planning Commissioner Susan Shannon. “I’m also appreciative of the owners bringing their corporate headquarters here and bringing more activities to the street where vacant buildings become this wasteland where people congregate and do inappropriate things. This will add a sense of community and safety to the area.”
The project received a letter of support from the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association, which stated that the plan would “enhance and improve the exterior of an important building on the (Cesar E. Chavez Ave.) corridor thus supporting the business district and making the area more visually appealing.”
“The plan for including a grocery store on the lower level of the building will provide a valuable resource for the neighborhood and create more access to healthy and affordable food,” according to the letter signed by RPNA Executive Director Amy Brower. “The RPNA is also optimistic that this project could support the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood by creating new employment opportunities in the community.”
The Supermercado Mexico plan is the latest project to move forward in Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood southwest of downtown. Other nearby investments include the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s $9.5 million plan for a new headquarters and event space, as well as the $147 million Factory Yards project that calls for nearly 470 apartments and retail space.
More from Crain’s Grand Rapids Business:
West Michigan supplier base at heightened risk from strike, experts say
Developer eyes mixed-use project on Grand Rapids supermarket property
Journeyman Distillery opening $40M facility in northwest Indiana
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