The latest update on a long-awaited mall strains relations between Bradenton executives and the project’s developer.
Speaking to the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency in July, Peter D’Addeo surprised the board by sharing that Ideal Food Basket, a well-known grocer in the northeast, had signed a tentative lease to become the planned flagship grocery store.
Ideal Food Basket first agreed in September to build a 25,000 square foot grocery store in the area. Those plans fell apart earlier this year when the company bosses pulled out of the deal.
City leaders sought to use the 3.4-acre triangle-shaped property in the 200 block of West 13th Avenue for more than 10 years, but the reversal stunned Bradenton officials who were ready to move in a different direction.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the area a food desert, defined as a neighborhood where residents have no access to vehicles and where the nearest grocery store is more than half a mile away. A “relatively high” number of residents (13.5%) do not have access to a vehicle, according to a 2019 USDA report.
D’Addeo’s news comes after a community town hall meeting in May where residents who live near the property in the 200 block of W. 13th Avenue said they no longer want a grocery store built there.
Local residents push for the pharmacy instead
Residents said they believe a planned 7,000 square foot grocery store at 420 Ninth Ave. W., the site of the former Miller’s Market, would suffice to meet the needs of the region. The new grocery store is just five blocks from the incoming mall.
Board members chastised D’Addeo for working to secure a grocery store, even though it was the desire of the community. Residents said they would rather see a neighborhood pharmacy, like Walgreens or CVS, instead.
“I am very concerned that you have continued to work on a grocer for this site,” Councilor Pamela Coachman said. “We left this meeting with a clear understanding that we don’t need a grocer.”
“Hearing a developer say that Ideal Food Basket signed a lease yesterday really pains me,” added Councilor Marianne Barnebey.
D’Addeo replied that he never felt the CRA didn’t want groceries. On the same day as the town hall meeting, he recalls speaking with representatives from Aldi about bringing the budget grocer to the site.
“I was never informed that I was no longer supposed to look for a grocery store,” D’Addeo said.
Speaking to the Bradenton Herald, Katerina Gerakios-Siren, executive director of Bradenton’s ARC, dismissed the developer’s excuse. In a July 12 email, D’Addeo told the CRA and local residents no longer wanted groceries.
“It came from the community,” Gerakios-Siren said. “This is a project where we really want the community and our advisory board to give us feedback.”
Financial incentives for grocers could disappear
Gerakios-Siren also explained that the initial deal to get the ideal basket of provisions included around $1 million in incentives from ARC.
Citing Ideal Food Basket’s departure from the deal, the board voted in April to provide $85,000 for the opening of a nearby grocery store. With a grocery store back in the picture, council members warned bigger incentives may no longer be available.
“When Ideal Food Basket left and everything looked gloomy, we committed substantial funds to Miller’s Market,” advisor Jayne Kocher told D’Addeo. “So don’t expect us to give away the store like we used to.”
Final approval for mall tenants comes from CRA. Other planned tenants at the mall include a McDonald’s restaurant with drive-thru, a Subway and a Family Dollar.
Although council members agreed to bring in these tenants, they also voted for D’Addeo to suspend the Ideal Food Basket deal while he pursues other anchor options.
D’Addeo did not discuss a timeline for the project and it is unclear when construction would begin.