Details remain to be sorted

By Kelly Ducote, The Observer April 04, 2014 10:55 am

Final vote on $500,000 request for downtown grocery store not expected this month

Though a presentation for a proposed downtown La Grande grocery store seemed well-received, there is much to be done before the project is approved for funding.

The Urban Renewal Agency heard a presentation from developer Al Adelsberger Monday night. He is requesting $500,000 to help establish La Grande Family Foods with grocer Troy Berglund, owner and operator of Mt. Joseph Family Foods in Wallowa County.

While public comments at the work session indicated there is support for funding the project, Urban Renewal Agency

members were not clear on what they thought.

 

"We haven't really finalized whether we will put something for the council on the April meeting to see if they really want to proceed," said Charlie Mitchell, La Grande's community and economic development director. "I think it would be a good idea to know if the council wants us to proceed."

 

At issue is the fact that Urban Renewal funding assistance for projects is typically capped at $75,000. Opponents have also noted that Adelsberger was granted funds by the agency for his Market Place project, which is yet unopened. In April 2011, he was awarded $65,000 for 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.

 

At the meeting  Monday night, Adelsberger said he wants to open the Market Place the right way. He said the upstairs portion of that project — which includes a restaurant, baker and wellness center — is set to open this summer.

 

Strope has said that this $500,000 request, if approved by the Urban Renewal Agency, would be disbursed in the form of a loan, which could convert to a grant if certain economic development criteria are met.

 

Before that decision is made, though, city staff will be working with the developer to work out issues with the project.

 

"There are still lots of details to be determined," Mitchell said. "We really don't know until we get a site plan. Nothing he presented is flat-out impossible, but there are certainly some things that we aren't sure if they'll be allowed, and he knows that."

 

Adelsberger noted at the meeting that in the proposal, he laid out angled parking on Fourth Street and is hoping for a covered bus stop at the grocery store, which would be located at the corner of Fourth and Adams Avenue in the building formerly occupied by Blockbuster.

 

"Those details are common" in a proposal, Mitchell said. "I don't think there's anything there that's really a deal breaker."

 

Mitchell also noted that the Urban Renewal Agency would not be making a decision as to whether the city will help fund the project, only to say whether or not they would like to continue down that path.