The local media picked up the story quickly and solicited the shocked reactions of people living nearby the Loblaw-owned Shop Easy Foods on 7th Avenue. The impact to people who depended on the retailer is significant.
The City of Saskatoon, according to the City Centre Plan it released in 2013, hopes to grow to a total population 500,000 within the next 20 to 30 years. Targeted groups to help create density in the core area include Generation X (those born from the early 1960s to the early 1980s) and Generation Y (those born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s) along with seniors.
Commonalities among those groups include a desire for increased social interaction, reduced vehicle dependency and acceptance of smaller quarters. The city has identified three essential services that must be met to attract this population: high quality transit; government services such as libraries; and a grocery store.
The closure of this City Park grocery store leaves a huge gap in accessibility for downtown residents. The next closest stores are: Safeway on 33rd Street West, which is on the other side of Idylwyld Drive; and Extra Foods, which requires crossing the river and going several blocks up Broadway.
There are a few small ethnic grocers in Riversdale as well as a cooperative grocery store on 20th Street West and Avenue L. None of these options are within a reasonable walking distance from core area housing.
Chicken or egg
Grocery retailers have been reluctant to come back downtown, but it’s hard to attract the population needed to sustain the business without this service in place.
So it definitely begs the question: Which comes first, the proverbial chicken or the egg?
I strongly believe that if you build it they will come. Foresight and a little bit of faith has taken the neighbourhood of Riversdale, for example, and completely transformed it.
The residential component of “The Banks” has sold very well in the pre-construction and construction phases. These condominium owners would benefit greatly from a grocery store, as would the people who already live in our downtown and peripheral neighbourhoods.
It’s just a matter of time until one of the national grocery chains operating in Saskatoon realizes how hot of an opportunity it is passing up.