Arlington leaders want to help bring this grocer to downtown, near UTA

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Downtown Arlington is poised to add a natural grocery store to its cache of businesses and eateries, and owners will have city grant funding to get started.

Council approved an agreement that would give Ann’s Grocery $245,000 as part of a five-year agreement, so long as the business meets sales requirements, maintain eight jobs and offers a health and nutrition class per quarter for the city.

The Dallas-based business Ann’s Health Food Center and Market has operated in the Metroplex since 1984, with a location in Waxahachie. Owners were not immediately available for comment. The Arlington location would be located in a retail facility at 101 S. Center St.

Councilmembers approved the agreement 8-1, with Marvin Sutton casting the only veto. The vote followed a robust conversation about the necessity of the funding.

Sutton said downtown and the entertainment district hold three supermarkets 10 minutes away by car, a number greater than his district of 80,000 residents in southeast Arlington. He asked if area stores were offered the grant, and whether the city could consider directing grant funding elsewhere.

“What comes to mind, is this a need or a want?” Sutton asked.

Bruce Payne, the city’s economic development director, said the store is both a need and want for an increasingly urban section of the city. The examples Sutton provided, Payne said, meet the needs of suburban residents.

“This is not a suburban environment in downtown any longer, and nor is its direction,” Payne said.

The city’s master plan for downtown Arlington determined a need for a small grocery store to accommodate residents, especially students at UT Arlington, according to city documents. The grant is funded by downtown’s tax increment reinvestment zone classification, a designation that enables leaders to fund projects using a portion of ad valorem tax revenue.

“We have a lot of students downtown who don’t have cars,” said Helen Moise, District 1 councilmember. “I see a chance to respond to a unique population in downtown Arlington.”

District 2 Councilmember Raul Gonzalez and District 6 Councilmember Ruby Faye Woolridge said they agreed Sutton’s district is in need of a grocery store. Woolridge added that she would seek out developers to explore adding more grocers to his district. District 8 Councilmember Dr. Barbara Odom-Wesley said the classes the store will offer will benefit the entire city.

The grocery store, under the agreement, must make $87,000 in taxable sales during its first operational year and $100,000 each following year, plus grow sales by 10%. Ann’s Grocery must also must contract minority- and women-owned businesses for 30% of the project.

The city will work with shop owners if they cannot meet the goals, Payne said, and can sue if they abandon their side of the deal altogether. However, the deal could mean downtown has the facilities for a replacement store.