By Dave Schwab
A grass-roots community group and a nonprofit grocers association have joined forces to oppose a TargetExpress store proposed to go in the remodeled Gala Foods site on the corner of Grape and Fern streets.
Community activist group Care About South Park and Mark Arabo, CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association (NMA), are lobbying against Target’s proposal, claiming the corporation’s plans threaten area small businesses.
“We don’t want [Target] there,” said South Park spokesperson Sabrina DiMinico, who added community opposition isn’t anti-Target.
“I shop at Target,” DiMinico said. “But we don’t want a Target in South Park.”
DiMinico said South Park is a community that has nurtured its local businesses from the ground up. She argued the addition of a corporate store like Target, which is publicly traded and primarily beholden to stockholders, poses a threat to the neighborhood.
“When large-format retailers come in, they drastically change the community and have negative impacts, taking dollars out of our local economy,” she said. “Our preference is to have an independent grocery store in there and we know that some are interested.”
“The NMA represents small-business owners throughout California, and many of our members sit directly in South Park,” he said. “They will be adversely affected if a TargetExpress moves forward. This is something we need to stop, or at least limit, to protect family-owned businesses.”
Arabo said Target has no interest in protecting small business in South Park.
“The small-business owners and neighbors have defined a unique image within the South Park,” he said. “Target threatens to not only hurt business owners, but the very personality of this amazing community. There are also additional concerns with traffic in the area.”
The property owners shut down the Gala Foods business in mid-October and leased the existing building at 3030 Grape St. to Target Corp., which plans to reopen it in July 2015 as a TargetExpress, a condensed version of a typical Target store.
On his Facebook page, Councilmember Todd Gloria, who represents South Park on the City Council, said he’s met with Gala property’s owners to discuss their lease with Target and their future vision for the parcel.
“After operating Gala Foods since 1988, they decided, for financial and personal reasons, that they no longer could continue and put the building for lease,” Gloria said. “While they understood the desire of the community for specific retailers, the two interested companies that were prepared to enter into a lease were Rite Aid and CVS.”
During lease negotiations, Gloria said he was told by property owners that Target arrived with an unsolicited proposal to lease the land and building for a new concept that was going to fit into the current building and provide grocery and pharmacy services.
“Based on the interested applicants, property owners believed this was the best opportunity for the community and better met the needs of current customers,” Gloria said, noting Target signed a lease with the property owner.
Gloria added that the property owners are responsible for maintaining the lease agreements with the other current tenants on the site: Captain Kirk’s, Marisco’s Seafood and the recycling center. The three locations and the Gala Foods property itself were cited late last year for 14 city code violations. Outstanding violations must be resolved prior to a new business operating on the Gala Foods site.
Gloria also said the lease with Target does allow for the property owner to control the northern portion of the site. Property owners have also expressed interest in constructing an additional commercial building on the northern portion of the site, but such plans are still preliminary, according to the architectural company hired by the property owners.
“Target is committed to partnering with local community, business and political leaders, as well as neighborhood groups, and keeping them informed as we move forward with our South Park TargetExpress store,” said Target spokesperson Kristen Emmons. “The TargetExpress store format is designed to fit into the communities that surround the stores, and part of ensuring that happens is listening to our local guests. While we are still in the early stages, what we’ve heard from the South Park community has already influenced our plans for the store.”
Emmons said some of the new Target store’s features will include:
- A wider assortment of basic hardware supplies, an unmet community need
- Locally commissioned artwork inside the store
- No Starbucks inside the store, acknowledging that a local coffee cart is a popular neighborhood fixture and a gathering place for residents
- Organic produce sourced from California whenever possible
- Maintaining the building currently on the property
“Based on feedback from the community, we will not make architectural or structural changes to the exterior of the building, and will make updates to the interior,” Emmons said. “We will play up the building’s natural light by removing the existing window blinds. Additionally, once the store opens, we will continue to apply things we’ve learned from the community, such as adding baking supplies, belts and sunglasses based on guest feedback.”
“There’s nothing we can do to hold them to any of the promises they’ve made,” said DiMinico, adding Target has not been forthcoming enough with their research data on how the new development will impact traffic in the neighborhood.
“We were blindsided by this whole thing happening,” DiMinico continued, noting the project is coming in under the radar and hasn’t been properly publicly vetted. This is a business that’s going to come in and drastically impact this community, bringing increased traffic and really changing a lot of things about the neighborhood.
“Granted, it’s private property, but the community has the most at stake here. We should have a say in what happens in our neighborhood.”
Arabo of NMA said it’s not too late to change Target’s plans.
“Measures can always be put in place to stop a corporation from entering a small neighborhood,” he said. “But, a community must unify and stand behind the principle of preservation to do this. I’ve partnered with Care About South Park to do just that. To unify the community, and work to create a South Park free from corporate influence and interest.”
Arabo said numerous small-business grocers have attempted to purchase the Gala Foods location.
“What I want is for South Park to maintain its uniqueness, its image,” he said. “Any small independent grocers would fit right into the natural landscape of the neighborhood.”
Discussing Target opposition’s next move, Arabo said, “Whatever it may be will have the entirety of South Park for support. Our work has only just begun.”
—Contact Dave Schwab at email@example.com.
Correction: This article originally stated that Target Corp. plans to put a Starbucks in the South Park location, when in fact Target representatives said there are no plans to do so. We apologize for the error.