The FRESH Impact
by Molly Hartman, Senior Project Manager and Director of the FRESH Program
December was an exciting month for the FRESH program. Started in 2009, FRESH was created to incentivize supermarket development and reduce disparities in access to grocery shopping between neighborhoods within New York City. Research by NYC Departments of City Planning and Health and Mental Hygiene identified neighborhoods throughout the city with high rates of diet-related disease such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity as well as high rates of poverty and unemployment. The research indicated that one contributing factor is that these neighborhoods generally had less supermarket space than more affluent neighborhoods in the city. Tax benefits from the FRESH program can be a unique tool to encourage the establishment of stores to increase access to grocery shopping and healthy food by mitigating some of the financial risks of opening a new store in a low-income neighborhood.
We recently celebrated the opening of the first FRESH supermarket in Queens, a new Food Bazaar Supermarket in Long Island City. This store features over 50,000 square feet of retail-selling area including a produce section with over 5,000 square feet of fresh, appealing produce. The store also has a fresh fish counter, a butcher section, and aisles of groceries, dry goods, and ethnic items.
To date, a total of 18 FRESH projects have been approved for zoning and/or tax benefits. These stores are located in all five boroughs and represent a range of store sizes and types from independently-owned, small stores anchored in neighborhood shopping corridors to regional chains that draw customers from a larger area to shop at a destination store.
Reductions in upfront costs and lower operating costs can provide the initial boost to incentivize the development of these new supermarkets in traditionally underserved neighborhoods. Long-term lower operating costs through real estate tax reductions can provide security to keep supermarkets operating and offering fresh, high-quality food, to communities that need it.
In total, these benefits have incentivized the renovation, expansion, or creation of almost 570,000 square feet of supermarket selling area and represent a private investment of over $80 million in supermarket development.
As we enter a new year, FRESH plans to build on the success of the past four years and continue to support supermarket development in communities that are underserved by retail grocery stores. Email [email protected] to help bring a new supermarket to your community, or for assistance in finding a location for your new store!
Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon, via Flickr