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UG moves forward with downtown KCK grocery store

March 15, 2019
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As seen in the Kansas City Business Journal, by Miranda Davis (March 14th, 2019). 

The Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., is one step close to a downtown grocery store.  

Earlier this week, the Planning Commission approved design plans for the store, which will be owned and built by the Unified Government. It will go to the Board of Commissioners for a vote on March 28.  

Located at Fifth Street and Minnesota Avenue, the grocery store will be operated by The Merc, a Lawrence-based community grocery store.  

Katherine Carttar, the Unified Government’s director of economic development, told the Kansas City Business Journal that when the designs were presented at community listening sessions, clear trends emerged. Many liked the third design but wanted to incorporate some elements and colors from the other designs.  

Although the Planning Commission approved preliminary designs, Carttar said the project architect will continue to tweak the exterior facade, based on the community feedback. Plans for the 14,000-square-foot store include a café seating area, a classroom, a deli counter, salad bar, meat counter and prepared food offerings.

Beyond providing groceries for residents, she said the store also will serve the 5,000 to 6,000 workers who come to downtown during the week, so having café seating and an area where people can have coffee meetings is important.  

Carttar said The Merc is an ideal partner, compared with more corporate competitors, because it understands how important incorporating community opinions and feedback is in the process. She said the grocery store is hosting meetings and researching what types and price points of products to carry.

Once commissioners approve those drawings, the project will move onto final design and construction drawings, she said. She expects the project to break ground in the summer and finish around March 2020. The UG selected International Architects Atelier as the architect and McCownGordon Construction as the general contractor.

KCK

Carttar said that making this a collaborative space where the community feels ownership has been crucial. Ideally, it becomes more than a grocery store for residents. UG officials plan to host cooking and nutritional classes at the location as well.  

The Unified Government sent out more than 19,000 postcards to any resident who lives in downtown or adjacent to it as a way to encourage public participation.  

“We really look at this, and The Merc looks at this, as the community’s store,” she said.  

Carttar said the idea for the grocery store has been on the Unified Government's radar for more than a decade. Previously, stores weren’t full grocery stores, which inhibited residents options if they didn’t have access to reliable transportation.  

“Really, this area has been a food desert for multiple decades,” she said. “We’re trying to make it more of an option for people to live downtown and surrounding areas.”

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