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I agree there are problems ... but my guess is that they would build the grocery store and lease it out to a grocer at a below market rate. Might solve the problem of getting approval for the store (by wrapping its approval up with the casino) and would lower the initial start up cost for a grocery store considering the area.

Sam M

PHD makes a good point here. But even the simple idea of lowering entry costs would require a bit of quality control on the subsidizing ageny's part. (In this case the Isle of Capri.)

Consider: The Hill currently supports some places that sell food. These are mostly small "convenience store" sorts of places. None of them, unfortunately, rises to the level of a "grocery store." I am not sure how that's defined. Does the new DeLallos slated for the Forbes-Fifth corridor count? Or is that a specialty store?

But that's beside the point. What I am getting at is that some stores currently sell food. But these are not the kinds of establishments people concerned about the Hill District prefer. The people who run those kinds of stores do not think it's worth the risk. Whether that's in terms of entry costs or operating costs, I don't know. But if it's operating costs, lowering the initial start-up cost isn't going to do all that much good.

But let's assume that the start-up costs are the issue here. Let's say the Isle of Capri wants to subsidize the kind of grocery store community leaders are after. So they offer some up-front money to, say, Food Lion. Food Lion takes the money. And builds what? I suppose they could minimize their risk by just opening a convenience store or a very small "grocery."

That is, there has to be more than money involved. Otherwise some clowns might come in and just use the start-up money to build something safe. Unless of course Isle of Capri gets involved in making management decisions regarding the store. Which is risky stuff. Because Isle of Capri does not operate grocery stores. It operates casinos.

Imagine what might happen if they get all full of themselves and subsidize a Whole Foods. Can the community support that? Forget start-up. Would the people who live in the Hill District buy enough $12-a-jar organic peanut butter to keep the place afloat? If not, how much of a subsidy would be required? Would that go directly to Whole Foods, or would it be used to reduce the cost of the organic peanut butter to $4 a jar so people living there could afford it? Offering a cheaper lease would seem to be more like a direct subsidy to Whole Foods. Or Giant Eagle. Or Food Lion. And seeing that such a subsidy is in place, you better believe people will come screaming when they see the price of peanut butter, no matter how much they are charging.

This is getting a bit convoluted, as you can see. So let me provide an example. Let's say I have a great big family but all I can afford is a tiny little HOnda Civic. Concerned that I can't get all of my kids where they need to go, some benefactor agrees to subsidize my car payment with $200 per month so I can upgrade to a minivan. Now, if I were a good parent I would take what I am spending on the Civic, add the $200 and get a minivan.

But if I were an asshole I would spend the subsidy on the same small car, then shift the money I had been spending on the payments to something else. Like dumping it into slot machines, maybe.

So how do we keep the grocery chain from making this kind of shift? By putting rules in place about square footage and prices and merchandise to be offered, that's how.

I'm not saying it can't be done. I bet it has in some places.

I just wouldn't want to be the store manager. Because that store manager is going to be running a privately funded social service agency masquerading as a store. Unfortunatley for him, people are going to want the faciltiy to offer "store" services while charging "social service" prices.

sean mcdaniel

not to be a crank, but what would most likely happen, regardless of subsidies or management,is that any grocery store would initially flourish and then flounder for the same reasons other supermarkets flopped in the Hill. And please don't pretend that you don't know what i mean.

as for that subsidized Whole Foods selling stuff at BELOW market prices, let me know when it opens. I'll be first in line for that $42 kiwi fruit I crave. But don't expect me to drive the Benz there.

here's an idea. since the city/county/state/federal/UN/god might provide subsidies to Capri, maybe they all could demand that the casion and grocery store pay employees ABOVE market salaries. Maybe that would stop the shoplifting, the drug selling, the prostitution and other crime that makes the Hill risky business for any legal business.

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