Funds would be for downtown La Grande grocery store
La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency will soon decide whether to help a La Grande developer and a grocer from Joseph open a $1.1 million food market downtown.
Al Adelsberger, developer and owner of the New Town Square building at Fourth Street and Washington Avenue and the Town Square building at Fourth Street and Adams Avenue, recently submitted a written application for $500,000 from the city’s Urban Renewal fund.
The money would offset costs of establishing the grocery store in the building at Fourth and Adams, formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video. The city council, which also is the Urban Renewal Agency, is slated to meet in a March 31 work session to look at Adelsberger’s proposal.
The stated mission of La Grande’s Urban Renewal Agency is to revitalize the city’s Central Business Zone by investing in public improvements and public-private relationships, to facilitate development of commercial and industrial parts of the zone, and to create jobs.
La Grande City Manager Robert Strope said the work session is a chance to informally consider the merits of Adelsberger’s proposal, with talk centering on economic development potential. Likely topics of discussion are job creation, requirements related to the business’s longevity and physical improvements to the building.
Any formal decision on the funding request would be made during a later, regularly-scheduled Urban Renewal Agency meeting.
“If the discussion goes well, we’d schedule an action item to be considered by the city council wearing their Urban Renewal hats,” Strope said.
Strope said Urban Renewal project grants are capped at $75,000, a figure far less than what Adelsberger is seeking. He said if the agency decided to approve the $500,000 request, it would be in the form of a loan.
If job creation and other economic development performance measures were met, the loan could then be converted to a grant. In the meantime, the city would hold a lien on the property.
According to Adelsberger’s Feb. 20 application, Market Place Family Foods would emphasize locally grown products and would serve as an “anchor” business for downtown’s west end. Adelsberger is partnered in the venture with Troy Bergland, the grocer who owns Mt. Joseph Family Foods in Joseph.
In a cover letter with the application, Adelsberger said the store can fill a void made in 2001 when Safeway moved its downtown supermarket to a location at the east end of Adams Avenue.
“What a downtown grocer can offer La Grande is a possibility for many of those shoppers to return,” he said. “If you can multiply this advantage with a local operator, and a global message of ‘keeping it local,’ the financial vibrancy of a community once lost can return, and return more effectively.”
According to the application, the building project would be owned by Adelsberger’s company, The Market Place LLC, while the business would be owned and operated by Bergland’s Mt. Joseph Family Foods LLC.
Project costs are estimated at $1.1 million, including renovation of the grocery store space and modifications for rental spaces already occupied by Farmer’s Insurance, Charter Media and Rise, Inc.
The project estimate, compiled by Stubblefield Construction, also includes costs for landscape, sidewalk and parking improvements, roofing and a sprinkler system.
Adelsberger, originally from California, bought the Town Square building at Fourth and Adams and the New Town Square at Fourth and Washington in the early 2000s.
Since then, he has focused improvement efforts on the New Town Square, formerly known as the Montgomery Ward Building. At that location, he has installed new sidewalks and street lights. New awnings have gone up over street level storefronts.
Currently, Adelsberger is building The Market Place, a shopping venue that will showcase local businesses, in the New Town Square building. He has received Urban Renewal funds to help with the costs of New Town Square development.
Terry DeSpain, Adelsberger’s business concierge, said Monday that a “soft opening” of the Market Place is scheduled for May 1, with a grand opening to follow in late spring or early summer.
Adelsberger, who also owns the Foley Towers building on Adams Avenue downtown, was not available for comment for this story. DeSpain said Adelsberger is devoted to the success of downtown La Grande.
“His heart is in keeping it local. That’s really his theme. He’s got a commitment to the community, and he brings a lot of knowledge to it,” DeSpain said.
The work session on the grocery store project is slated for 6 p.m. March 31, in council chambers at City Hall, 1000 Adams Ave.