Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Could Denisty be to be Blame For Food Deserts?
As the flight to the Suburbs was on in full force so was the plight of the Neighborhood Corner Store. The City Blocks that they served were emptying out and the Shoppers who were moving to the Suburbs had big new Grocery Stores they could shop at. During the flight to the Suburbs the automobile became front and center in American Life and your Neighborhood Corner Store doesn't exactly have "acres of parking" something that Suburban Grocery Anchored Shopping Centers would boast about when trying to lure Shoppers. The Automobile and the Flight to the Suburbs effectively killed the Neighborhood Corner Store.
Meanwhile, the lower density Suburbs sport many Grocery Stores some with square footage exceeding 100,000. Take Owings Mills for instance. Its population is growing rapidly and according to the 2010 Census it had reached 30,622. Now lets take a look at the Grocery Stores serving Owings Mills. There are two Giants one in New Town Village Center the other in St. Thomas Shopping Center, there's a Safeway, a Food Lion, a Wal Mart, a Sam's Club, a Target, and a Wegman's under construction at the old Solo Cup Factory. That's a lot of Grocery Stores.
Now lets go into the City and find a plat of land that has roughly the same population as Owings Mills. Lets try SoWeBo, West Baltimore, Downtown, East Baltimore, and Southeast Baltimore. As long as you don't trek into North Baltimore, you will find food deserts.
These plats of land in Baltimore may in fact have a larger population than Owings Mills yet it doesn't have nearly the amount of Grocery Stores. Why? I mean everyone needs food to survive right? What makes the City so different from Owings Mills? If a Grocery Store were to open anywhere in the City the amount of people living within a square mile of it is staggering compared to a Suburb like Owings Mills yet there they aren't.
The density of the City is so high that if the same amount of Grocery Stores that are in Owings Mills were built for every 30,000 Baltimore Residents, there would be a 60,000 Square Foot Grocer every couple of blocks. The fact that this hasn't happened is partially why many parts of Baltimore appear to be barren Food Deserts. There could in fact be a Grocery Store a couple of miles away but the area is so dense, it would warrant one or two Grocers to be closer especially when comparing populations with Owings Mills.
Despite the good news in the above paragraph, there are still many Food Deserts in Baltimore. Some of these Deserts are even located in some of Baltimore's most sought after Neighborhoods that are receiving large amounts of Population Growth. Fells Point, Butchers Hill, Mount Vernon, Downtown, Highlandtown, and Patterson Park are some of the areas in question. All of these Neighborhoods could each get their own 55,000 to 65,000 Square Foot Grocery Store and the Market wouldn't be saturated. If I were a Grocer, I would be looking to open in any one of these areas.
Not all Food Deserts are located in sought after Neighborhoods that are growing. In fact one reason these Neighborhoods are Food Deserts is because they're also "People Deserts." So many Neighborhoods in East and West Baltimore as well as Park Heights in Northwest Baltimore. These Neighborhoods have some of the most concentration of population loss in the City with nearly half the buildings and lots vacant in some cases. In East Baltimore especially near Hopkins, there are redevelopment Master Plans in effect that are aimed at attracting growth and with it more Grocery Stores. The Park Heights redevelopment plan also calls for Grocery Stores. Both of these plans are using the "if you build it they will come mentality."