The question of whether Kroger should get nearly $4 million in tax breaks for a new Uptown grocery and apartment development was delayed at Dallas City Hall Wednesday amid opposition to the plan.
Other grocers have opened downtown locations in recent years with no tax subsidies, while companies refuse city cash offers to open in unserved parts of the city that are considered “food deserts.”
The proposed location on Hall Street east of Central Expressway is former public housing land. It has deed restrictions that require at least some affordable housing on the site forever.
So critics argue it should not be necessary to provide incentives to include affordable housing in what has become a booming part of the city.
Kroger and its development partners have requested a tax abatement that would amount to $3.892 million given up by the city over 10 years.
In return for the incentive, Kroger offers a $108 million project with an 80,000 square foot store and 375 apartments with 20% of the units reserved for tenants earning less than 60% of the average income.
Speaking to the Dallas City Council Wednesday, Anthony Page with The Uptown Neighborhood Association said incentives should not be necessary for affordable housing on the deed-restricted land.
“We believe subsidizing a supermarket to serve this neighborhood is a waste of taxpayer money and may actually reduce the number of affordable units that would otherwise be constructed on this site,” he said.
In the Uptown area, Two Tom Thumb stores and a Whole Foods Store have opened in recent years in other mixed-use developments that received no city subsidies.
H-E-B has announced plans for a store nearby with no tax incentive request as of yet.
Kroger already has another store nearby on Capital a Haskell. Page said the proposed city deal for the new location does not require keeping the existing store open.
“In other words, there’s a real risk that the $4 million incentive would really result in a closing of our existing neighborhood Kroger which would simply move down the street, resulting in no added grocery stores and no economic benefit to the city,” Page said.
The Kroger application claims the new site is in a US Department of Agriculture food desert, where low-income residents without cars must travel more than half a mile for groceries.
Page said the claim is based on an outdated USDA report.
In an area that really is a Southern Dallas food desert around Simpson Stuart and Bonnie View Roads, the city invested millions to open a small full-service grocery store that recently closed but could soon reopen.
Without that store fresh food is miles away for surrounding apartments, single-family homes and Paul Quinn College.
All the major grocery chains including Kroger declined a $3 million city offer several years ago to open a store in the Southern Dallas food deserts.
Councilman Paul Ridley who represents the Uptown location asked to delay the Kroger vote Wednesday.
“I would like to defer this matter to allow for additional community input on the merits of this project,” Ridley said.
Ridley did not state his position on the issue at the meeting and did not respond to a request for additional comment afterward.
Council Member Carolyn Arnold was the only vote against the delay.
“We should not delay it. We should go ahead and vote on it. And my position is that to delay it just gives us an opportunity to wallow in unnecessary conversation because this group has not demonstrated equity in the Southern Sector,” Arnold said.
Kroger Spokesperson April Martin replied to a request for comment on these issues with an e-mail statement.
“We do not have a comment to share at this time,” her statement said.
The Kroger request returns to the City Council on Oct. 27.
Read More: $4 Million Tax Break for Uptown Dallas Grocery Store Questioned – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth