Downtown growth could attract grocery store to area

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - According to experts, the key to attracting more people to downtown living is opening a grocery store in the area.

Holly Barrett is the executive director of the Omaha Downtown Improvement District. She said the downtown core will soon hit the numbers needs to attract a full-service grocery store.

"I'm going to say for sure within the next couple year that we're going to see something happen. Maybe even sooner," Barrett said. "Most of the major grocery store chains have benchmarks that each city has to get. And those benchmarks are based on residential numbers, and number of downtown employees, people within walking distances, how many parking spaces available and those kinds of things."

Continued growth is expected to push downtown Omaha past the benchmarks.

The city's $290 million Riverfront Revitalization Project and $500 million redevelopment of the Conagra campus are both set to get underway this year.

More growth is anticipated at the corner of 14th and Dodge where the Lanoha development company has plans for a 32-story condominium with office and retail space.

"A grocery store is naturally a fundamental building block to any neighborhood," Scott Dobbe, executive director of Omaha by Design said. "There's a certain draw to the vibrancy of the downtown core, and a certain draw to lack of the need for an automobile to get you around, to be able to walk and bike and different modes. So as that starts to happen, there's naturally a need for more amenities to support that kind of lifestyle downtown."

Experts believe a grocery store is one of the final steps in creating a thriving downtown, and would further boost the number of people calling downtown home.

"There are certain amenities that residents need. They need churches, they need schools and they need places to buy food. So we're really close to being a complete neighborhood," Barrett said.

Barrett said major grocery store chains interested in moving into downtown include Bakers, HyVee and Trader Joe's.