With movement toward approval of a new Publix on the North Shore and construction in progress on the Southside’s Enzo’s, the landscape of downtown grocery shopping is changing.
Greenlife Grocery, which is also in North Chattanooga, is in midst of renovations as well.
Meanwhile, some Chattanooga area residents face challenges in accessing groceries, such as fresh produce, because they live in “food deserts” or because of other circumstances, such as limited access to transportation.
John Bridger, executive director of Chattanooga’s Regional Planning Agency, said that the Publix proposal is moving through his organization, and the next step is to get the property rezoned.
City Council members will vote on that on Sept. 11, he said.
Members of the Planning Commission approved the rezoning earlier this month.
Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid said the site hasn’t been officially confirmed, so she couldn’t comment about plans.
But Bridger said the Publix is proposed for the 400 block of North Market Street between Keen and Bush streets.
According to the agency’s recommendations, the store would be 46,000 square feet on 4.87 acres of land, less than one mile from Interstate 24 and U.S. 27.
According to documents, members of the agency thought developers did a “thorough job” of presenting the rezoning request.
And, according to the agency’s report, there is enough downtown buying power to support the grocery, which may also help provide food to those in the area’s food deserts.
“The location of this grocery and its access to public transportation would alleviate some of these concerns [about access to food],” according to the agency’s report on the project.
Whole Foods leaders bought Greenlife in 2010 from local owner Chuck Pruett, and now the store is undergoing renovations that leaders hope to complete by the holidays, Whole Life spokeswoman Darrah Horgan said via email.
“Future and upcoming changes will be communicated via a store map/blueprint near the front of the store," she said, adding that customer response has been positive.
Leaders haven’t decided yet if the store will be rebranded as Whole Life, she also said.
But the changes aren’t a reaction to the Publix proposal.
“This remodeling plan has been our plan for a long time, so it has no direct correlation to any competition,” she said. “Overall, the changes will allow our shoppers a wider selection and more offerings in several departments, and moving produce up to the front of the store just makes more sense than having it in the back. Competition in the market makes every retailer stronger and offer the best selection and price for the customer.”
Local operating partners announced in May that Enzo’s is in the works on the Southside. The store will be at 100 W. Main St. That is the old Hills Floral Building, which has a mural on the side that reads “The Main Event.”
The multimillion dollar investment will bring “easily a couple hundred jobs” for the construction and renovation of the building, one of the operating partners, Gavin Thomas, told Nooga.com in May.
Once it is complete, there will be between 35 and 40 part-time and full-time jobs for grocery employees.
Thomas said last week that work on Enzo’s is “progressing nicely.”
Leaders are aiming for a Friday in February for the opening and will have a more secure date later in the year.
“We are beginning working on the parking lot and will start on the roof in the next week or so,” he said via email. “It’s looking like construction will finish up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once that occurs, we will be hiring in the new year, training and stocking the store.”