Developer Al Adelsberger, left, talks with La Grande attorney David Baum Thursday in the Market Place in downtown La Grande. Adelsberger has submitted an application requesting $500,000 from the city’s Urban Renewal fund to help establish a $1.1 million food market on the corner of Adams Avenue and Fourth Street, in the building formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video. He is scheduled to present his grocery store project to the Urban Renewal Agency at 6 p.m. Monday in the Cook Memorial Library’s community room. (CHRIS BAXTER/The Observer)
Al Adelsberger to go before city to outline details of grocery store project
Nearly three years ago a man with big dreams for La Grande pitched an idea for a downtown shopping center and small business incubator.
The project was slated to cost about $130,000.
Since then, developer Al Adelsberger — and other private investors — have put close to $2 million into the Market Place, located on the corner of Fourth Street and Washington Avenue.
“That’s turned into something far greater” than what was originally planned, Adelsberger said in a recent interview.
Following his April 2011 presentation, the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency OK’d a grant award of $65,000 to help the project. Of that, $39,862 has been disbursed for the project, according to city documents. The balance will be disbursed upon completion of the project, City Manager Robert Strope said.
The Market Place is just a piece of the vision Adelsberger has for La Grande. Next week he will present another aspect of that vision — a downtown grocery store emphasizing locally grown products. Adelsberger has submitted an application requesting $500,000 from the city’s Urban Renewal fund to help establish the $1.1 million food market on the corner of Adams Avenue and Fourth Street, in the building formerly occupied by Blockbuster Video.
Market Place Family Foods, Adelsberger said in his application, will serve as an “anchor tenant” for downtown. He is partnered with grocer Troy Bergland, of Mt. Joseph Family Foods in Wallowa County.
The venture is rooted in Adelsberger’s belief in shopping local. The developer notes that big box stores typically return only 15 cents on the dollar back into the local economy, while local merchants return 45 cents on the dollar. Local investment, he says, will help downtown flourish.
“You have to have an anchor tenant,” Adelsberger said. “That’s what food is — it’s recession proof.”
The $500,000 in funding would come with stipulations. Strope has said if Monday’s discussion goes well, an action item will be placed on an upcoming agenda. Then, if approved by the city council, the $500,000 would come in the form of a loan. If job creation and other economic development performance measures are met, the loan could then be converted to a grant. The city would hold a lien on the property until then.
The effort to establish a downtown grocery store, Adelsberger says, is “only a continuation of what we started three years ago.”
The developer said the Market Place’s opening has been postponed from the original completion date of 2012 because he is working on getting the right tenants in the space. The Market Place consists of an upstairs restaurant — The Alley Door Restaurant — and a bakery, Le Bebe Cakes. Downstairs, patrons will find spaces for incubator businesses and areas for artists to not only display their work but to do their work while visitors watch. The project also includes an expansion of Nature’s Pantry.
Adelsberger anticipates the upstairs portion of the Market Place will open this year. As for the downstairs shopping center, he doesn’t want to commit to a date just yet.
“We don’t have quality applicants yet,” he said, noting that he knows the area has a lot of talent. “I would rather stay empty … than move in a wrong tenant.”
Strope said the remainder of the 2011 award — $25,138 — will be disbursed when the city receives a certificate of occupancy.
Adelsberger will present the city council, which is also the Urban Renewal Agency, with his grocery store project at 6 p.m. Monday in the Cook Memorial Library’s community room. He’s hoping for a positive response and a public--private partnership that will bring foot traffic and vibrancy back to La Grande.
“My heart’s in La Grande, my heart’s in Eastern Oregon,” he said.