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Observer 11/24/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow URA approves funding for downtown grocery store

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URA approves funding for downtown grocery store

The La Grande Urban Renewal Agency, on a 4-3 vote, approved up to $500,000 in funding for the establishment of a grocery store on the west end of La Grande.
An agreement between the URA and the applicants requires the store maintain six full-time employees at $15 an hour and five part-time employees at or above minimum wage. It also stipulates how the loan may be converted to a grant if requirements laid out in the agreement are met. Each year, if the store meets the URA agreement criteria, $100,000 of the loan can be forgiven.
If the store fails to meet those targets, however, that portion of the principal will remain and the interest rate will increase. The agreement provides for a maximum timeline of 10 years for the store to work toward full forgiveness of the loan.
"If they don't (meet targets in agreement), nothing is forgiven," La Grande City Manager Robert Strope said.
Charlie Mitchell, community and economic development director, told the agency that economic development comes with inherent risk but that he believes the agreement mitigates much of that risk.
The city will hold a second-position lien on the property.
Mitchell said the project could be a catalyst for further development on the west end of town.
"Investment leads to investment," he said.
During public comments on the matter, some expressed concern for competition between Marketplace Family Foods and other delis, convenience stores and grocery stores.
"I believe competition is healthy," agency member John Bozarth said.
Mary Ann Miesner, also on the agency, said she does not expect that local stores will see a significant revenue drop.
Mayor Dan Pokorney and agency member Jerry Sebestyen made clear their objection to funding the project. Both said they were uncomfortable with spending such a large amount of public money on a private project.
Those who voted in favor, however, said they feel the project matches the spirit of Urban Renewal as well or better than most other projects they've funded in the past.
"We need to do some rejuvenating" of downtown, Miesner said.
Troy Pointer, Pokorney and Sebestyen voted against the motion.
 
See full coverage in Friday's edition of The Observer.
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