Where should we locate our community-owned grocery?

July 21, 2023

There are lots of reasons to get excited about establishing the Electricy City Food Co-op – a big one is that opening a community-owned grocery store in downtown Schenectady will amplify the vitality of our local and regional economy.  As we search for a site, where could we locate to have the greatest positive impact?

The DRI Schenectady Retail Market Analysis (Street Sense Report) suggests that building a grocery store in or near four existing retail micro climates is likely to help amplify multiplier effects and support healthy circulation in the downtown economy.  Of course, locating in these vital economic nodes will bring more people to our co-op, too – everybody wins!

The map to the right shows the four key retail micro climates identified in the report that together serve the downtown retail ecosystem: The Proctors Block, Lower State Street, Little Italy, and Mohawk Harbor. Developing a grocery store in proximity to these existing economic nodes can help amplify the vitality of our downtown economy, allowing people to chain their trips and extend their downtown visits.

What about transportation access?

The Lower State Street node offers easy transportation access for diverse residents – by foot, bus, car, and truck…

Located close to Arterial Highway 890,  the Lower State Street node would make it easy for regional farmers and producers – and shoppers – to visit.  It also includes a number of new apartment buildings and destinations for food, beverage, entertainment, and walking tours (including the Historic Stockade District).

Lower State Street also includes access to ten key public transit routes and is the new home for the region’s first planned mobility hub. Currently under construction, the Gateway Mobility Center (at the intersection of State and Church Streets) will make it easy for folks to hop from a bus to a bike or a scooter and explore the diverse offerings of the downtown area. Adjacent parking and EV-charging stations coupled with sidewalk improvements will make it easy for local and regional visitors coming by car or transit to reach nearby desintations by foot (or pedal power).

 

How about the Mill Artisan District?

The “Mill Artisan District” rests within this regionally accessible Lower State Street node, with connections to SUNY Schenectady, Gateway Park, high residential density (e.g., new apartment buildings and the Stockade neighborhood), and options for food, beverage, and entertainment.  A 2018 ECFC Market Study (see report summary or full report) found that The Mill Artisan District site would likely generate higher sales than many other sites due to its proximity to the daytime population in downtown Schenectady, its accessibility to I-890, and the potential for retail synergy.  Retail synergy at this site promises to be especially high, given that plans for the Mill Artisan District emphasize its potential to become a “vibrant retail corridor with a focus on locally sourced and crafted products.”  Already, this district includes Bountiful Bread (a scratch kitchen and bakery) and Frog Alley (a local brewery and entertainment center); a community-owned downtown grocery store would further contribute to the emphasis on locally sourced and crafted products. 

Schenectady County Metroplex’s recently announced plans to demolish buildings in the Mill District creates a new opportunity to build a community-owned downtown grocery store in this promising node.