Thursday, December 16, 2010

Commerce City Gathers Food for Thought

By Commerce City

Top ten lists, personal anecdotes and concerns about the environment were just some of the themes expressed by Commerce City residents during the recent “Operation Food Network Project;” an effort by the city to collect information from residents on the need for a grocery store in the city’s Northern Range.

“We’ve heard loud and clear the needs of our residents in the north, and we shared their disappointment with the lack of progress by Wal-Mart on their proposed store at 104th and Tower Road,” said Jerry Flannery, Commerce City’s City Manager. “We’ve remained focused on not placing all our eggs in one basket, and making sure that the path to a storefront in the north is as streamlined and attractive to potential partners as possible. That’s why I supported our Economic Development Division’s Operation Food Network.”

Over the past two months, Operation Food Network asked residents in the north to share their stories with the city, with the ultimate goal of being able to add yet another compelling argument to the case for a grocery retailer moving to the Northern Range.

“The demographics show that we’re an attractive location for any of the major national grocers, and our City Council is generous in terms of their willingness to negotiate incentives,” said Brittany Morris, Economic Development Director. “One way we thought we’d reach a tipping point is to promote a grassroots effort to ensure that potential partners understand the depth of the market need in the north. From need came Operation Food Network.”

Nearly 20 submissions have been received to date, and most tell the tale of a community’s need to have a grocery store in close proximity to home. “We thank all those who took time to share their experiences,” said Morris. “These heartfelt messages – most serious, some humorous – will certainly help us tell the human side of the story to potential grocery partners, and prove to them without a doubt this is an untapped market.” said Morris.

Excerpts from some of the more compelling entries follow (some have been edited for clarity):

• A few weekends ago I decided that I wanted to try out an old recipe. I got all the way through the preparation process without realizing that I was out of soy sauce.

The thought occurred to give up, but then I remembered that I'd been campaigning since the previous evening to get my kids to agree to have my noodles. I knew that if I changed the menu, I'd lose them.

That's when it dawned on me that I had to drive 14 miles each way to the grocery store to get a bottle of soy sauce. I must say that there was some frustration, especially when I think about what I did to the environment that afternoon.

• If writing a story about why I need a grocery store will help us to get one, I would write a thousand stories!

We have been living in the Reunion area now for over four years. Every week we have to travel at least eight miles one way to go to a store. My husband and I are both unemployed and on a very tight budget. We calculated out the gas cost to just going to the grocery store and it's approximately twenty dollars a month.

There is also the time factor. We have to plan on about forty minutes of driving for every time we need to go to the store. This is such a hardship for my family. Children aren't always the best shoppers when they are tired and then have to drive for twenty minutes before even getting to the grocery store!

• I'm a Reunion resident of nearly seven years. I love where I live. I love the sense of community. Love the landscaping. The people. What's the one thing I hate? The fact that I have to drive over 10 miles to the closest grocery store. God forbid you forget something! Back again you go. This is no quick trip either. I plan my entire day around driving to and from a local grocery store. I don't dare buy ice cream in the summer. It's soup by the time I get home.

• Since our move into northern Commerce City, we have had to travel 7 miles into another city to shop for groceries. It isn’t the most convenient trip, it takes time and planning and it takes us out of our home town. We don’t feel connected to our city, Commerce City, since everything we do, shopping, eating and entertainment is always outside the city limits. We are hoping, waiting and are ready to start spending money in Commerce City!

• You know it is bad when people Facebook each other for ingredients they need because the nearest grocery store is at least a 20 minute drive or longer depending on the weather. I see that happen at least once a week.

• Reunion residents are very loyal to their surrounding neighborhood businesses. Having a nearby grocery store would further bolster residents' attitude toward Commerce City and its future. Though the economy has been tough, people still need to spend money on life's essentials. Convenience is a necessity for Reunion, not a "nice to have" during difficult economic times.

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