Winnipeg developers court grocers for downtown

A number of downtown business associations are looking into why grocery retailers haven't stepped up to open a store in downtown Winnipeg.

CentreVenture, others commission study on how to get grocery retailers downtown

A number of downtown business associations are having trouble attracting grocery retailers to downtown Winnipeg. CBC's Meagan Fiddler reports. 1:58

A number of downtown business associations are looking into why grocery retailers haven’t stepped up to open a store in downtown Winnipeg.

Officials from CentureVenture, a downtown development corporation, said efforts have been underway to find a new grocery retailer for downtown Winnipeg.

The group has been in touch with a number of mid to large size grocery retailers to try and find a business willing to open after two downtown grocery stores announced their closure last fall.

The Extra Foods on Notre Dame Avenue closed in November, and officials announced the Portage Avenue Zellers location would be closed by the end of March.

With that store's full closure fast approaching, CentreVenture officials say no one has stepped up to replace the locations and grocery stores are sorely needed in the area.

Fred Douglas Place is just down the street from the now-closed Zellers, and resident Gord McDiarmid said its closure will have a big impact on people living in the building.

"We have in my case, older people — some with walkers, some with wheelchairs, some with scooters, a lot with handicaps, and there’s no place to buy food," said McDiarmid.

Officials with the building’s residents’ association say some people on fixed or low incomes have been forced to take $30 cab rides just to get groceries.

The association’s president, Richard Wilson, said residents have lobbied local governments on the issue to no avail.

Wilson said at least "200 letters have gone out expressing our concerns to city hall, the premier and to places that people should be looking at this grocery situation."

Association member Bob Roddy hopes the government will provide grocers with an incentive to move into the area.

"They have to do it. It’s part of the cornerstone of growth," said Roddy.

One of the few remaining options for groceries downtown is Family Foods on Donald Street.

Owner Mike Ploszey says rent could be a major factor in resistance from grocers to move into the area.

"It’s very expensive to operate downtown. Parking is another thing. You want to shop, you have to pay," said Ploszey.

Now, a number of developers and business organizations have decided to take action.

CentureVenture, the Forks North-Portage Partnership and the West End, Exchange and Downtown BIZ have commissioned a real-estate firm to examine the issue.

CBRE has been selected to analyze what might be deterring grocery retailers from opening in the area.

The results from the analysis are expected in the coming weeks.