By Dave Schwab
The proposed opening of a TargetExpress store in South Park’s remodeled Gala Food site on the corner of Grape and Fern streets has been delayed from summer until fall.
“We have adjusted our projected opening date to October 2015 in order to ensure the property meets or exceeds governmental codes and regulations,” Target spokesperson Kristen Emmons said.
Emmons was responding to recent remarks by project opponents the Neighborhood Market Association (NMA), and Care About South Park, a community grassroots group, characterizing the project as being “stalled” rather than “delayed.”
Detractors claim the corporation’s plans threaten area mom-and-pop businesses, which they say are the backbone of the neighborhood.
Target initially announced plans to reopen the former Gala independent grocery store, which closed in October, following an extensive remodel in July 2015 as a TargetExpress, a condensed version of a typical Target store.
“The news of Target stalling its move to South Park has been anticipated by the members of the NMA and Care About South Park for some time now,” said NMA President Mark Arabo. “We will continue to work with the owner of Gala Foods to see what measures can be considered so that the residents of South Park are dutifully served.”
Arabo said interested parties are exploring possible options in “putting a stop to the rise of corporate influence in South Park.”
“And, while there were many detractors, and numerous challenges, I am happy to say that the little guy has won the day,” Arabo said. “We look forward to continue working with both the small-business community, and neighborhoods, to make a better San Diego.”
“We do not want a TargetExpress in our neighborhood, and we hope Target is having second thoughts about coming to South Park,” said Care About South Park spokesperson Sabrina DiMinico, who noted the neighborhood is not anti-Target but rather pro-small business.
“South Park’s local independent shops and markets are the very reason people want to visit and live here,” DiMinico said. “If a Target store occupies our largest and most visible property, our neighborhood will lose its charm and vitality, and our small businesses will suffer.”
DiMinico argued that a new corporate entity in South Park could change the community’s character. She added that the corporation needs to be more forthcoming to the community about its plans.
“Corporate reps have met with some South Park business owners and have conferred with hand-selected residents in private, but they have only attended two public meetings open to the entire community,” she said.
DiMinico said Target’s appearance Oct. 8 at the Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee meeting was “unannounced to give an unscheduled presentation.”
She claimed Target didn’t listen when it appeared at the Dec. 17 Burlingame Neighborhood Association gathering where “many residents clearly stated their opposition to a Target in South Park.”
“Target is now stalling on the release of their renovation plans,” claimed DiMinico noting the Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee “tried repeatedly to get Target on their January meeting agenda, but this required advance submission of preliminary plans and drawings, and Target refused to comply.”
DiMinico said Target has repeatedly requested community feedback, but when asked to actually provide their plans to the community and follow planning group rules, they “refuse and tell us it’s a ‘courtesy’ that they are sharing information with us.”
Emmons said previously that 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.”
Some of the TargetExpress features are proposed to include:
- A wider assortment of basic hardware supplies, an unmet community need
- Commissioning a local artist to create artwork inside the store
- Organic produce sourced from California whenever possible
- Maintaining the building as it currently stands on the property
Emmons reiterated plans for the new TargetExpress do not include a Starbucks outlet that might compete with existing independent businesses in the area.
“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.”
Emmons said Target has been, and will continue to be, responsive to the community in listening to their concerns and acting upon them.
“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,” she said. ”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.”
—Contact Dave Schwab at email@example.com.