Score: Capitol Hill 7, First Hill 0?

Despite our present trend toward quantifying everything, I still frequently prefer to make more qualitative, intuitive judgments about the livability of neighborhoods.  The single best shorthand I know is an affirmative answer to the question, “If I lived here, would I walk to the grocery store?”   Consider Capitol Hill, where in just over a square mile there are 7 major grocery stores, sewn together by dozens of small markets and convenience stores.  Or walk around Lower Queen Anne; Metropolitan Market is quite the neighborhood anchor, isn’t it?

So it’s a great loss for First Hill that its only full-service grocery, M Street, shut its doors last week.  King 5 quotes a customer named Tony Lucas, “It’s like a desert out here.  The closest one is on Broadway and University.  I’m not going to walk that far.”  There is still easy transit access to groceries – including Metro #2 and #12 (to Kress, Pike Place Market, Madison Market, Trader Joes, or the Broadway/Union QFC) – but losing easy walking access considerably diminishes urban quality of life.   Walk Score gives the intersection of Boren/Madison a score of 97, a “Walker’s Paradise”, while giving Broadway/John an 89, merely “Very Walkable.”  Could anyone possibly walk around those two areas and argue that those scores are merited?

If you live car-free or car-lite, give thanks for your neighborhood grocery stores, patronize them liberally, and show them the value that comes from having a dense pedestrian customer base.  Walkable neighborhoods can’t afford not to have them.

107 Replies to “First Hill Loses Its Grocery Store”

  1. Well … it will be fantastic when the FIrst Hill Streetcar is running … then I can jump on at Broadway/Boren/Terrace and ride to Pike/Broadway (and back) … until then … I use my car.

    1. That’s literally an 8-minute walk.

      This is not a good case for an ultra-expensive streetcar with 12-minute frequencies.

      (p.s. I walk 10-15 minutes with groceries all the time.)

      1. I’ve done a bit of shopping at the M Street store. Expensive, sort of like Whole Paycheck Foods. Small fortune for a limp sandwich. The Polish deli in a block or so up Madison is better and cheaper. And being only one block from the freeway cross over sort of limits their market. Not surprised it didn’t last.

      2. The QFC at Harvard Market (Pike/Broadway) is within walking distance to a good chunk of the northeast corner of First Hill. The best place for a grocery store serving the rest of First Hill might be in the Yesler Terrace redevelopment. The northwest part of First Hill, especially near where Pike and Pine cross the freeway, is more problematic, though there is a convenience-store-type-thing at Bellevue and Olive Way.

      3. See, Aleks et al

        Steve H just dittoed the “Whole Paycheck Foods” meme. I’d estimate 60% of this city uses QFC as its primary grocer, and most of those people wouldn’t go near a Whole Foods.

        I’m not kidding — Whole Foods costs 30% less.

        And that M Street sandwich probably wouldn’t be limp there.

      4. Oh, and I hate Whole Foods, BTW. Its founder and CEO-until-recently is a viciously anti-union, anti-health care reform, global warming denier wingnut!

        But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s much less exorbitant than QFC. (Still, please choose PCC/Madison Market over both of them if you have the option.)

      5. Thanks for those links, Oran! I’m always looking for the best statistical verification for my experiential evidence.

        I’ve seen the P-I one before, and while its conclusions backed me up, I had mixed feelings about its methodology (all barrel-bottom staples, PCC not included). So it’s nice to have the others.

        The Capitol Hill blog’s “finicky shopper” list also seems to back me up, but I wish they had also recorded the QFC-card prices (to demonstrate that even carrying a loyalty card won’t save you enough to make up for the whopping base-pricing).

        The Seattle Times link contradicts both me and the other two links by finding Whole Foods the most exorbitant. But there are a couple of major flaws in its methodology: it seems to have looked only at a handful of “in-common” items that exist at PCC and Whole Foods and chain-wide at the major chains. My hunch is that if they’d divided types of food by category (cereals, dairy, etc) and taken store-wide averages, regardless of in-common brands, they would have been surprised by the results.

        Also, this pattern has become apparent to me:
        Regular produce at major chains < Any produce at PCC/Whole Foods (organic is the default) < Organic produce at major chains

        The Times basically just looked at those first two. If they’d averaged in the third, they’d have reached a very different conclusion.

      6. “I’d estimate 60% of this city uses QFC as its primary grocer, and most of those people wouldn’t go near a Whole Foods.”

        It’s because they’re still in denial about QFC being purchased by Kroger.

      7. The best case for the streetcar is that the people voted for it. You can either accept that, or move to someplace like Omaha, where short-sightedness is embraced and petted like tiny dogs.

      8. Actually, “the people” voted for a large and important rapid transit project that happened to include a streetcar about which there were few specifics — a streetcar that only existed in the package to replace a rapid transit stop that had been cut from a prior large and important rapid transit project for which the people had voted!

        I’m not anti-streetcar. I’m not even inherently anti-First Hill Streetcar.

        My point is that the First Hill route, running at anything less than 7-8 minute frequencies is so totally useless that the money may as well not be spent.

        This isn’t a case of “the perfect being the enemy of the good.” The perfect would have been a darned Link stop. The good would be a 7-minute streetcar. This thing, as planned, is Seattle building, from scratch and at great expense, yet another just-doesn’t-cut-it project.

      9. The Capitol Hill grocery assessment identifies Madison Market, QFC, and the Whole Foods at the bottom of the hill on Denny as the “three closest” grocery stores. Is there actually a location where that is actually true?

      10. Bernie,
        QFC’s quality droped and their prices rose both after Fred Meyer bought them and after Kroger bought Fred Meyer. Some QFC stores are much better than others when it comes to quality and selection of produce, meat, seafood, wine, and local products.
        Supposedly QFC is one of the best performing Kroger brands and 3 of the best performing stores in the entire chain are QFC’s in the Seattle area.

  2. oh yeah … at Jefferson/Broadway there is a huge pit that would love to see a supermarket go in with whatever else is planned for that lot

    1. I suspect a good chunk of their patronage would come from Seattle University; our largest residence hall is literally across the street. Harborview and Swedish would also be demand drivers. That might be better than my other idea above, though whether it would actually happen is another matter.

  3. “If I lived here, would I walk to the grocery store?”

    I agree. And as someone who doesn’t live in the city and is looking at various neighborhoods, I’ve found that checking out the supermarket is a good quick and easy way to get a feel for the neighborhood.

    Btw, I’ve been wondering this for a while. Is it just fortuitous that both Othello and Beacon Hill stations have grocery stores across the street?

    1. And the QFC is all-but adjacent to Mt. Baker. It certainly could be intentional, but the same sort of density/crossroads/transit hubs that make a place an ideal station location are also the kinds of things whole departments are researching at major supermarket chains when deciding on siting.

      1. If I were to run a line through Wallingford, you know I’d want a station near the Food Giant, I mean, QFC. ;)

        In a lot of neighborhoods the grocery store really is at “neighborhood central,” and thus a good station location.

      2. 45th & Wallingford is pretty much the center. QFC, Bartell Drugs, the Clinic, library, restaurants, etc. It even has the neighborhood’s name on the street and the grocery’s roof!

        I used to live across the street from the Food Giant on 46th, now it’s QFC’s parking lot. :(

    2. The other option is to shop at corner stores. Where I live in Belltown, I’m 7 blocks from Metropolitan Market and slightly farther from the Pike Place Market or Whole Foods. Even as a militant pedestrian I don’t like to walk that far for errands. Thankfully, Belltown is full of decent corner groceries and 1/4-size stores, including three within a block in a half. The selection isn’t very good but you can live on these places. I also wish part of the PPM would stay open longer. The IGA comes in handy after work sometimes.

      1. I too live in Belltown. The problem with corner stores is that their selection is usually very unhealthy. Only the full-fat versions of packaged foods, the fattiest cuts of meat, and usually no produce to speak of. I end up buying a thing or two at these places because they’re close, but if it wasn’t for AmazonFresh I would probably end up getting a Zipcar to buy groceries at the Safeway in Uptown.

      2. The prices tend to be higher at these smaller stores. Not always, but frequently. Particularly for less-common items. I understand why, I’m just sayin’.

      3. While I live in north Beacon Hill I love shopping at Trader Joe’s (I know, how original of me). If it isn’t raining (much) I don’t mind biking to the capitol hill location and carrying my groceries home in my backpack. This does limit quantity, but I can squeeze a fair amount of groceries in my backpack. I’ve also taken the 60 a few times since it has increased evening trips over the past year. I suppose I could also take a bus down Madison and board Link…

      4. It’s not that walking to LQA or the Market would be difficult per se. But it would be inconvenient. I’ll take my corner stores most of the time!

    1. Wait, I don’t have to wonder, they’ve gone beta with the new ones. John & Broadway gets 99 and Boren & Madison gets 98. But ALL of B&M’s shopping category is pharmacies, which is just stupid. They should split out “full service grocery” as a separate category, as food is… important to quality of life.

      1. They’ve got us, in North Beacon Hill, at only 60. And yet, I live a 5 minute walk from the Red Apple grocery and the train station, I can go to my doctor and dentist only a few minutes’ walk from my front door, I have two coffee shops and several restaurants within 5-10 minutes’ walk… that score seems low.

        We often complain about lack of retail on North Beacon Hill, but compared to some other neighborhoods, it’s a walker’s paradise.

        Also, WalkScore treats all of Beacon Hill as a single neighborhood, and rates it as the 53rd most walkable neighborhood in Seattle. I have argued before that this is extremely misleading. We are talking about a 5+ mile long hill, 1.25 miles wide at its widest point. There is no way in hell that you can call Beacon Hill a single neighborhood in a traditional sense. Even the common designations of “North Beacon,” “Mid-Beacon,” and “South Beacon” aren’t terribly useful, really. Anyway, you have what we call South Beacon, which is less dense than most of Lake City, I’d guess, and then the central part of North Beacon, which is a classic old “streetcar neighborhood” with an actual downtown. Two very different areas, and really, all they have in common is that they are both on a long ridge that we call Beacon Hill.

        In other words… I don’t put much stock in WalkScore.

      2. When I put in 17th Ave S & S McClellan Street (i.e. the Link station), and use the beta “street smart” score, it says that the score is 76. At 15th and Beacon, it’s 79. That sounds about right to me…

      3. Agreed litlnemo – NoBeHi is much more walkable than other parts of the hill. Don’t forget the library, several bank branches, a bakery, and a second grocery (ABC Market, Asian + Hispanic goods).

        That said, it certainly isn’t a destination. We need some serious development of retail + housing. I think they’re talking about 4-5 stories…6 stories would be nice. Hopefully some structures with nice details & depth to their facades.

      4. Ah, Aleks, I see. I wasn’t in the Beta version. Our Walk Score at my house is 74 using the Beta.

        However, the “grocery store” they use to give us the high score, the “Chinesse (sic) Qigong Tuina Center” isn’t a grocery store. Weird. And it doesn’t list the Red Apple that is only two blocks away!

        I can’t find a beta score for the neighborhood in general so the old one is all we have to go by, there.

      5. Brett, if you support 4-6 stories in the North Beacon Hill urban village, make sure you get out to local meetings and such to express your opinions on it. :)

  4. Having been there on the way to Town Hall a number of times, my hunch is that M Streets failure was that it didn’t offer its (captive) neighborhood audience much to inspire loyalty. It had pretty basic items — nothing of exceptional quality or interest — and it overcharged for every single one of them.

    In that sense, it was more of an overgrown convenience store than a full-service market. It would have been foolhardy for locals to do all of their shopping there.

    On the other hand, grocery-store affinities are a weird part of the American psyche. QFC markets to the “rising middle” — the upwardly mobile who are self-conscious about their bourgeois-ness and don’t want to be seen as “Whole Foods/PCC types” — when in fact they charge 30% higher prices in every category. (That’s 30% over Safeway in mainstream crap foods, and 30% over Whole Foods in organics and specialty foods. Seriously!)

    1. At least part of the extra cost at QFC is due to the fantastic hours — every one in the city is open 24/7. Personally, I’m happy to pay the QFC premium, knowing that I’m helping to keep a 24-hour store in business. The fact that IGA is only open till 10 is actually a major reason why I wouldn’t want to live downtown. Far more of my grocery trips are after 10 than before.

      1. Aren’t Safeways usually 24/7? Not that they aren’t also a “part-of-the-problem” big-agribusiness-stocked corporate conglomerate, but most of their stock overlaps with QFC at significantly cheaper prices.

        My objection to QFC’s increasing focus on the organic/natural/healthful/specialty niche is that they abuse (and at the same time reinforce) the popular impression that such foods are exorbitant. They’re betting that longtime QFC customers who are just discovering that niche will have never been to Whole Foods or PCC and will think the prices similar. But buying such things at QFC will be far more of a paycheck-depleting endeavor than going to so-called “Whole Paycheck.”

        Still, I’m lucky to have 24/7 Ballard Market. And I was pretty thrilled when PCC — from which I’ll happily walk or bus with my groceries despite it being 2 miles away and Fremont-Ballard bus service sucking — started staying open ’til midnight.

      2. The Safeway across the street from Ballard Market is the exception. Both of the Capitol Hill Safeways close at 1am; good enough for most of my trips, but I walk by its closed doors on a regular basis.

        Ballard Market is fantastic, and that was my main grocery store when I lived in north Fremont. (I could either take the 44 east or west, so might as well go to the better one.) But independent groceries are few and far between, especially ones with such great hours.

        The problem I have with both Whole Foods and PCC, and the reason why I love Ballard Market, is that they don’t have anything but natural foods. Sometimes, I just want to buy the unhealthy brands that I’m used to and that I like the taste of. :) Everyone I know who lives in Fremont has a backup (non-PCC) supermarket that they use for staples, whether it be Trader Joe’s, Ballard Market, or the Wallingford QFC.

      3. I understand that. I tend to be a “1 or 2 bags at a time on the way home” kind of grocery shopper, so I just use PCC, Ballard Market, and Trader Joe’s for completely different types of things, and I tend to pass through one of the above 2 or 3 times a week. Très européen. ;-)

        (BTW, while I don’t object in principle to that 5-cent bag fee we had on the ballot a while back, its supporters drove me nuts. “Just keep reusable bags in your trunk!” Um, what trunk, gas guzzlers?)

        That said, I live 60 seconds from a QFC and try never to go in, even in a pinch. I just can’t support Kroger, Inc.’s price-gouging and reinforcement of the idea that healthy food must cost a fortune!

      4. I just can’t support Kroger, Inc.’s price-gouging

        Hey, they only gouge you at QFC; at Freddie Kroger’s they’re one of the low cost outlets… for the same stuff. Some people just don’t think anything can be good if it’s not expensive ;-)

      5. The Safeway on Brooklyn between 50th and 47th closes around 2. I’m a mite surprised U-Districters have to go to U-Village, Roosevelt, or for a really long haul, Wallingford for a QFC; besides that, we have the latest closing times in the city I know of.

    2. Safeway in LQA is open 05:00 – 01:00 and Queen Anne busses are an integral part of my grocery shopping. Anyone who thinks M Street’s selection or prices were bad needs to check out Kress. Pretty much any decent grocery store could set up downtown and liquidate Kress in six months.

      I’m waiting with baited breath for the Target to open downtown this summer so at least I won’t have to schlep boxes for cereal and tins of beans on the bus.

      1. I am very excited for Target. I went with a friend to Northgate Target recently and was really impressed by the grocery selection. I had no idea Target sold so many groceries.

      2. Indeed, I’m sure it is pas très Européen but I prefer to save my boutique shopping for things I care about and buy everything else at the lowest possible price, preferably all in one place.

      3. Target is not opening until 2012, I thought. Has that changed?

        It would be a significant improvement on downtown grocery shopping, regardless.

      4. Target … would be a significant improvement on downtown grocery shopping

        Which reinforces how much living DT would suck. Target is an improvement as a grocery store. The grocer is the store most frequented; unless of course your lifestyle involves eating out the vast majority of meals. That I guess is totally valid and fits the “downtown” lifestyle. Not really practical with a family and kids though.

      5. When I lived downtown from ’95-’97 I did most of my shopping at Larry’s in Queen Anne, the Safeway on Capitol Hill and the Pike Place Market. Between the bus and my bike I never thought it was that inconvenient. I guess coming from a small midwestern town I was just happy to have fresh vegetables in January and fruit that didn’t come in a can. Other than staples like cereal you can get most of what you need at the Market, and the prices aren’t that bad either, better than Whole Foods and QFC.

      6. Northgate is, surprisingly, one of the most appealing parts of the city to me as someone who would want to adopt a car-free lifestyle (I live in or near the U-District and commute to Seattle U, but I desperately need to get away from the encroaching frat boys), especially once North Link opens… and one of the biggest turn-offs is that it’d be either Target or the out-of-the-way QFC near Roosevelt and Northgate for groceries. (105th and 5th gets an 88 walkscore, “very walkable”, and a 96 on the beta. The Thornton Place development east of the transit center gets a 92 regular and 94 beta.)

      7. I live here because I like being one minute from the market and the waterfront; five minutes from work, Link and 3rd Ave; fifteen minutes walk from more bars, clubs and cafés than I can list; and half an hour’s ride to pretty much any part of the Seattle Metro area that I care about. I cook almost all of my meals, and consider the twice-weekly trolley rides through Belltown a small price to pay for this phenomenal location.

        If have kids I’ll live on Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, or maybe Eastlake, but I’m not at that point in life right now. Even if I did live in those places, I’d be very enthused about the Downtown target, because tinned chickpeas are pretty much tinned chickpeas wherever you buy them, and the same for vacuum cleaners and bed linen.

        Having access to a good discount store Downtown is just one more reason not to move to the suburbs and die…

      8. @Morgan I have friends who live in Northgate. It’s probably the cheapest part of the city outside of the Ranier Valley where you can comfortably be carless. It will probably be much nicer when North Link opens, as right now you get to experience Norman’s vision for rapid transit in the form of route 41.

      9. Bruce: That’s actually sort of my point.

        PCC is my preference and the only grocery “trip” I’ll make. But things that are easier and/or cheaper to get at Ballard Market or Trader Joe’s just kind of get acquired on the way home. (It also doesn’t hurt to have a fantastic boulangerie and a couple of good wine shops in 5-block radius.)

        So it’s come to be second nature which kinds of things to pick up where, and “big shopping trips,” boutique or otherwise, are mercifully rare.

        BTW, I’d say you do pretty well downtown with Pike Place right there, Uwajimaya inches from the DSTT, and Whole actually-less-of-a-Paycheck-gobbler-than-QFC within easy walking distance (or a streetcar hop if it ever happens to come when you need it)!

      10. @d.p. I’ve actually started shopping more at the market now, for fresh produce and cheese. Dry and packaged goods at the market are a rip-off, but the fresh stuff is good and priced right. Also, they’ll give you stuff hellua cheap sometimes if you go right before close.

        I’m still looking forward to Target for dry goods, and to avoid schlepping vacuum cleaners and the like back from Northgate on the 41.

      11. I think it’s fair to presume that no one likes schlepping vacuum cleaners on the 41. Might not be so bad on Link, with its open floor plan and ease of boarding and all those things Metro can’t seem to learn from.

        FWIW, if I lived anywhere near the the DSTT or Link, I’d make a lot of use of Uwajimaya! That’s an “everything under the sun” kind of one-stop shopping. I’m not there often enough to know how the prices compare on American goods, but they carry plenty of them too.

    1. Depends on where you draw them. If you define First Hill as just the part that shares downtown’s street grid, it borders the hill, but isn’t part of it. But like I said, for the northeast part of the hill it’s the best choice if you’re fine with price-gouging.

      1. The foundation upon which Shaner’s entire blog post rests is incorrect.

        He says, “So it’s a great loss for First Hill that its only full-service grocery …” This just isn’t true. The QFC I mentioned is in/on First Hill. That is just a fact.

      2. @Sam, technically true, but I think Pike/Pine has evolved into its own distinct neighborhood. Even if Broadway/Pike is technically within the standard definition of First Hill, it’s definitely at its northeastern fringe and at one of its highest points on the hill. For someone down the hill on Madison, or at those new apartments at 7th/James, or anywhere near Harborview…that’s what I mean by the core of First Hill. And that area is now a food desert, period.

  5. I am far more concerned with the largest grocery-free zone in Seattle on Delridge and 35th in West Seattle. Unfortunately, the big chains prefer to locate together rather than locating in untested areas. Sadly, the grocery big wigs are completely auto-centric.

    1. In West Seattle, the 4 hubs where the grocery stores are sit at the intersection of at least 3 bus lines.

      Admiral – Metropolitan Market, PCC, Safeway (this summer)
      Alaska – QFC, Safeway, Trader Joe’s (soon)
      Morgan – Thriftway
      Westwood – QFC, Safeway

      Short of them building one right next to your house, I don’t see how they could have picked less car-centric locations.

      1. Dude–these are all in affluent West Seattle. The entire Highland Park/Pigeon Point hill, the entire length of Delridge, and High Point on 35th are all well over a mile from a grocery store.

        The point wasn’t that transit serves the current grocery stores well, it is that those who are most transit-dependent in West Seattle are poorly served by grocery options.

      2. While I won’t dispute the HP/PP point, I will say that I don’t think there are a lot of people who consider Westwood to be affluent.

        Your other point contradicts itself. You can’t say that the people on Delridge or 35th or in High Point are transit-dependent and poorly served. Those places mentioned are served by routes that go to one or more of those grocery stores. Would you like them to build stores where people don’t have to take the bus? If so, then you can’t classify them as transit-dependant.

      3. He wants them to build more grocery stores in less affluent markets like Delridge and Highland Park and High Point. I don’t think he’s disputing that it is possible to take the bus from those neighborhoods to the grocery store, but it’s a big hassle to take the bus to a grocery store a few miles away so most people will just drive.

      4. Agreed with comment of lack of groceries and difficulty of getting to stores from 35th or Delridge area. If you look at a map, you’ll see that the bus service travels N/S for the most part in West Seattle. Sure, there’s the 128, which crosses 35th and Delridge, but only at one point each. So if I lived on Delridge, I’d take the 22 to the 128 to the stores. This could take about 45 minutes one way. One could take the 22, get off at Andover, and hike to a stop under the bridge, but that’s a long walk, and harder uphill with groceries. And walking up and down various hills within a 2-mile radious is off-putting to most people. The hills to the east are not small nor short. I walk up and down one to get to Thriftway (it’s faster than waiting for the 128). I’m in good shape and have to shop wisely so I don’t end up with too much to carry up the hill. Every part of the city has it’s own problems, so just because a store may be in a bus “junction” area doesn’t mean ALL buses end up there or that it’s easy to get there by bus in the first place.

      5. To pile on, the highest ridership bus route in West Seattle is the 120 – Delridge. There are no grocery stores along the route between White Center and Downtown Seattle. E-W service in West Seattle is minimal. So if you live on Delridge and rely on transit, your supermarket options are the White Center Alberstons or Downtown, which means in reality you’ll go to one of the handful of mini-marts along Delridge. But White Center is great if you’re into Asian or Mexican groceries.

    2. You beat me to it. I am very sad to see the loss of M Street for 1st Hill… but at least they can get to grocery stores by bus.

      Almost the entire Delridge corridor requires a transfer to take transit to a grocery store. There are a couple other “food deserts” in Seattle as well.

      1. I disagree. There are plenty of grocery stores, as well as Asian and Mexican Markets for the residents of Delridge to shop from, especially in White Center.

      2. Agreed! Go to Georgetown and try to buy a roll of toilet paper, a raw potato or the daily newspaper. Good Luck.

      3. Meadowbrook (NE 35th/110th NE) is the same. A mile in either direction to the nearest large store, both QFCs–and the one the (fairly infrequent 65) bus goes by is a tiny one. You can walk 1/2 mile to a Freddy’s from the bus…all of which means if you have a car, you’ll probably use it.

      4. “Meadowbrook (NE 35th/110th NE) is the same.”

        I think you meant NE 110th/35th NE, although coincidentally, the other location is probably a mile from a QFC on Bellevue Way NE..

      5. Believe it or not, a recent city sponsored retail study of Rainier Valley concluded that the valley has too many grocery stores. But they counted places like the Busy Bee and others in this category.

  6. I’m within walking distance of two (soon to be one) grocery store in Greenwood but tend to use AmazonFresh for most non-produce items anyhow.

      1. Yes damn him for not shopping in a socially approved manner!

        Thankfully there’s nothing you can do about it.

      2. Ryan, there are positives to using Amazon Fresh even when you live within walking distance of a grocery store. The biggest one is that Amazon doesn’t need to waste a ton of space and fuel to provide a retail front. No lights, no heat, no signage or shelving, no extraneous land use to make the shopping experience more pleasant.

        Plus, not everyone who shops at a grocery store lives within walking distance, and not even everyone who lives within walking distance will walk. Supermarkets aren’t sited with walkers in mind; the entire concept is geared towards car trips and bulk purchases. So by encouraging fewer grocery stores, you’re getting cars off the road.

        Fresh also provides competition to stores that have a dominant presence in a region. All of a sudden the mantra is no longer “location, location, location.” You have to start competing on selection again.

  7. Both the cities of Portland and Seattle would be verrrry good locations for Tesco’s Fresh & Easy:

    Unfortunately, they are non-Union so no politician will ever lift a finger to encourage them to expand into the area.

    1. A lot of stores are expanding into this concept. I’m surprised more local chains haven’t experimented with the idea. I sure wish I lived next to a “QFC Express” or the like instead of “Abyssinia Market” or whatever that thing is…

      1. I never said that being Union or non-Union will have anything to do with success, but I have experienced situations where development deals that needed some government assistance (not financial) fell apart because the proposed tenant was non-Union.

        In the case of Whole Foods the stores are not in areas where they needed any encouragement, except maybe for the SLU one, but then there was a pressing need of Vulcan to get some amenities into the neighborhood to then be able to get tenants for all the other properties acquired back during the Seattle Commons campaign.

        So blame John Hinterberger (RIP ;-)) for that one!

    2. What happens next will depend alot on how many sq ft M Street Market had. As Erik G suggests there are other options waiting in the California wings (one from Japan, too, right?), but I’d bet that unless Red Apple or perhaps Metropolitan Market find that the space is large enough for one of them to operate profitably, it may sit empty for a while.

      1. Famima!:

        is another potential tenant, but I think they are focused on L.A. for now. Which is really too bad given the links between Seattle and Japan.

        But then, they really are an upscale 7-Eleven and First Hill needs a grocery.

      2. I’m a blowhard about this, but I-5 is a huge psychological barrier and it divides neighborhoods more sharply than any other piece of infrastructure. I wonder how many people from the condos near SPL (5th/Madison) ever walked across the highway for groceries at M Street. Without I-5 (or with a lidded I-5), I think the financial district might have had a shot at a decent nightlife, First Hill would have remained a hell of a lot nicer, and grocery stores would continue to make a decent profit. As it stands, it’s a commuter and low-rent student neighborhood bustling by day and gutted by night.

  8. Here on Kent East Hill, there is a small grocer and several general purpose stores (Walgreen’s, Rite-AID) about 0.5 miles away, 10 minute walk, 3 minute bike.

    The bigger supermarket, Top Food, is about twice that…very bikeable.

  9. Where I lived in the Chicago, there is a section of the neighborhood that is populated with very large high rises giving the neighborhood the impressive 36,000 people per square mile density. There is a food delivery service that is quite popular in this area called Peapod. You always saw their trucks pretty much everyday even though there was a Dominick’s (aka Safeway) 3 blocks away, a Jewel (aka Albertson’s) 2 trains stops down, lots of people chose to get their food including meat and produce delivered.

    So are there any current full service delivery services in the Seattle area? Amazon Fresh doesn’t count. ;-)

  10. Any theories about why the M folded? Probaly wasn’t the best location, with half the walkshed eaten up by a freeway (not just a bad stategy for Link stations).

  11. These urban supermarkets are still auto-dependent and require parking lots to survive. They’ve just changed the parking lot format from suburban to multi-story, and hidden them in the back or behind walls.

    I never shopped at M – Did it have any or adequate parking??? Maybe that’s why it failed.

    To be supported 100% by walk-in and/or bus-in traffic – you will have much smaller stores and higher prices – or require a much higher density of population (not any time soon).

    But you can’t have Walmart prices AND a corner market.

    I was very disappointed to see Uwajimaya elect to locate their new Bellevue store at the old Larry’s / Joes – next to the School District Bus Barn (east of 405) – rather than in the Downtown core or in the Overlake commu. It appears their business model remains auto-dependent.

    1. “To be supported 100% by walk-in and/or bus-in traffic – you will have much smaller stores and higher prices – or require a much higher density of population (not any time soon).”

      Or get a captive market by building a mixed use building with residential, like Uwajimaya in the ID or Safeway in downtown Bellevue. They still have to have parking lots, but they can be shared use lots.

      1. M Street Market was in the retail portion of an apartment building (M Street Seattle). I don’t know what the parking is like, but I assume there was parking in the building for shoppers.

      2. Smaller stores does not = higher prices.
        High rent = higher prices.
        High willingness-to-pay in the neighborhood = higher prices.

        A supermarket in a basement or in a old run-down building (i.e., low rent) could undercut chain supermarkets on price, if they wanted to. All the ethnic supermarkets in White Center are dirt cheap – because rents are low and their customers demand low prices. First Hill, not so much. Kress IGA follows this model, but has high prices because they can.

    2. Yes, M Street did have adequate parking. I had heard, although I don’t know this for a fact, that the building owners wanted to jack up the lease price way way high. I’m guessing the space will sit empty. I’m very sorry to see M Street Market go.

    3. Downtown Seattle Uwajimaya and Downtown Bellevue Safeway are the worst examples, regardless of their mixed use. Both resulted in a 2 to 3 times increase in parking spaces over their earlier form. Bellevue Safeway pushing well over 250 spaces for retail alone. Uawjimaya has 364 total – I’m guessing 200 of which are available for retail.

      Although their locations encourage walk up traffic – their huge size is dependent on automobile traffic – and the parking provided. That size is then used to dominate and increase the geographic size of their market – and put more corner/neighborhood stores out of business, resulting in less walk-up traffic to grocery stores over-all.

      This is the same model they used in the 50’s and 60’s – when the “supermarket” descended on Ballard, Queen Anne, etc. and the corner stores boarded up their windows or sold beer to minors to make due.

  12. If I could choose to live anywhere, it would be in a gigantic condo directly above a grocery store. I have a family, so having at least 3 bedrooms is something I’m not willing to give up, but I hate taking care of a yard, so if I could find a condo big enough, and in a building with a grocery store at the ground floor, holy cow, that would be heaven. Bonus points if there were a daycare and a friendly bar and grill across the street. Problem: condos that big tend to cost a fortune. You can find a few townhouse-ish ones that are less expensive than my 4-bedroom house in the vast Levittown that is Seattle north of 85th, but they tend not to be any closer to a grocery store than my current home.

  13. Anyone tried the grocery outlet on mlk and union? Terrific prices on wine and gourmet cheeses and organics…Well worth a long bike ride or bus trip…

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