Is Downtown Ready for an Urban Grocery Store?

October 31, 2006 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Winn-Dixie is set to renovate and expand the current downtown store. Let's think outside the box and strive for something that can be far and above the typical outlet in the suburbs.

Back in July, we ran an article mentioning that Winn-Dixie was committed to keeping a store to serve the downtown area and either building a new location or revamping the current one.  Since this time, the supermarket chain has worked hard to eliminate vagrants from panhandling and loitering in the parking lot and replaced its old carts with electronic ones that lock the wheels, if someone tried to remove one from the parking lot. If you remember, we also challenged local officials (just like we’re currently doing with the farmer’s market) to jump on this chance to work with Winn Dixie to find a better alternative location for a possible new urban oriented store.

While, this may have never been seriously followed up on, Winn-Dixie has shown its commitment to the core by announcing a $1.3 million dollar expansion and renovation project at the current 777 Market Street location.   Plans include adding 2,000 square feet to the front of the store and enlarging the deli, produce, floral and pharmacy departments. New lighting fixtures and a color scheme will also be added in the process.  Work is scheduled to begin in January 2007.

New store Director, Juan Mott, states they want to make this store the number one location in the chain.  Spokesman Pat McSweeney, was quoted in the Downtown This Week paper that “When it’s complete, the Downtown store will look like a Winn-Dixie in a suburban neighborhood.”

While, we’re definitely happy to see Winn-Dixie committed to downtown Jacksonville and advise all downtown residents, workers and advocates to support the store, we’d like to challenge Winn-Dixie and those who will have to approve the new plans to make the downtown store resemble a store in an “urban” neighborhood.  This means finding a way to and using design methods to highlight and encourage pedestrian activity and future urban development in that general area of downtown. 




Winn-Dixie plans include a new deli that will offer ready-to-eat lunches and dinners for downtown workers and those on their way home.  While suburban markets may or may not offer indoor seating, the trend for urban markets is to incorporate outdoor seating patio space near the deli, helping to give the market an exciting appearance for the casual passer buyer.




Another simple way to create a special unique urban oriented market is the use of signage and interior lighting schemes and features unique only to this location.  While they may not seem important at first glance, combined all of these small design elements add to create a special destination far and above the level of everyday competition.  


While the existing store has a suburban layout, it is located in an urban area where residents are used to on-street parking and buildings that come up to the sidewalks.  The redevelopment of the store brings the opportunity to make improvements to the large surface lot. 

These improvements could include something as extensive as adding a small strip of specialty retail along Market or Union Street (shown above) to make the location a larger destination or as simple as adding lush landscaping to buffer the massive surface lot and wide sidewalks encouraging free flowing pedestrian movement. 

In any event, with a full block, we encourage those at Winn-Dixie to put their heads together and come up with something that exceeds the typical suburban oriented store, cementing this prime downtown location as the chain's Flagship model.