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VOL. 133 | NO. 7 | Tuesday, January 9, 2018

City Council to Consider Ideas to Mitigate Kroger Closures

By Bill Dries

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Memphis City Council members will talk Tuesday, Jan. 9, about the decision of Kroger’s Delta Division to close two of its Memphis stores in 3 1/2 weeks.

The sudden announcement could create food deserts in those areas of the city and make it difficult of recruit replacement stores.

Kroger announced it will close stores on South Third in the Southgate shopping center, at Lamar near Airways and a third store in Clarksdale, Mississippi, because of millions of dollars in losses in recent years.

Council members Jamita Swearengen and Edmund Ford Jr., whose districts include the two Memphis stores, said Friday, Jan. 5, they intend to try to fight the closings or work toward getting new supermarket tenants in the spaces.

Jamita Swearengen

“There are not grocery stores in that surrounding area that have full service. We have a bank. We have a pharmacy,” Swearengen said of the Lamar-Airways location where she shops. “It’s family.”

Swearengen said Kroger Delta Division has said it will not delay the Feb. 2 closings despite appeals from her to put them off at least temporarily.

“We’re going to have to find other businesses to fill the gap that have the comparable service that Kroger has given in that community,” she said.

In addition to recruiting other supermarket chains, Swearengen and Ford talked about beefing up bus service specifically for shoppers one or two days a week.

Ford noted that with the closings, Kroger will have no locations in the larger South Memphis area outside of Whitehaven. The Whitehaven Kroger underwent a $5 million renovation in 2014.

Swearengen and Ford say the Lamar and Southgate stores haven’t been renovated recently.

Edmund Ford Jr.

“Those Krogers leave a large void in the Orange Mound-South Memphis area,” Ford said. “I feel bad for those businesses that are in close proximity to that Kroger because now they may have some issues that aren’t their fault at all. … Is this how you treat your supporters for five decades? No.”

Fellow council member Martavius Jones and Shelby County commissioner Reginald Milton also questioned the decision to close the stores and the impact it will have on the community.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said last week that he is “disappointed” by Kroger’s decision.

“But these neighborhoods are no less important than any other neighborhoods in our city,” he said in a Facebook post. “And citizens who live there absolutely deserve access to a quality grocery store. Our administration will work with businesses willing to fill the void.”

Meanwhile, council members vote on proposed increases in Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division gas and electric rates Tuesday with a committee discussion at 10:35 a.m.

The council voted Dec. 20 to rejected a 1 percent water rate increase proposed by MLGW.

The proposed electricity rate hike would be 2.3 percent for each of the next three years. The gas rate hike would be 4.5 percent for each of the next two years.

The council session begins at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, 125 N. Main St. Follow the meeting @tdnpols, www.twitter.com/tdnpols, for live coverage and updates from committee sessions earlier in the council day.

The council votes on third and final reading on a referendum ordinance that would put a question to voters whether to extend the current limit of two consecutive terms on council members and the mayor to three consecutive terms. If the council approves the question, it would go on the November ballot for city voters to approve or reject.

If approved by voters, the term limit extension would go into effect immediately and allow six council members now serving their second term of office to run for another term in 2019.

The council votes on second reading of another ballot question also for the November ballot that would eliminate the runoff provision for the seven single-member council districts. The runoff provision is triggered in races in those districts where no candidate gets a majority of the votes cast. The top two vote-getters then advance to a separate runoff election.

In planning and development items, the council has another vote scheduled for Tuesday on a proposal by Memphis Wrecking Co. to expand its existing construction dump site in Frayser to move closer to Whitney Achievement School. The item has been delayed several times. Memphis Wrecking executives announced last week that they are preparing to consider alternative sites, but have not formally withdrawn the expansion plans.

The council also votes Tuesday on a three-lot single family planned development by JDJ Properties LLC on North Claybrook Street, south of Larkin Avenue and west of Cleveland.

The council is also expected to set a Jan. 23 date for a public hearing and vote on the Dwell at Shelby Farms mixed-use development by Crews Investment Holdings and Elmington Capital on the north side of Raleigh LaGrange Road near the dead end of Trinity Road and Fischer Steel Road in Cordova.

PROPERTY SALES 23 23 1,365
MORTGAGES 21 21 1,068
BUILDING PERMITS 117 117 3,173