This is an opinion piece by the author. Feel free to leave your own views in the comments.
On Wednesday, Whole Foods officially announced their plans to open up shop in Jersey City. Details are a bit scarce. All we really know is that it’s planned somewhere on the Metropolis Towers site and will span 45,000 square feet – quite large for an urban outpost.
It’s certainly about time a legitimate grocer opened up in Jersey City. Mayor Fulop showed his enthusiasm in a statement saying, “Really excited to share positive news that Whole Foods formally announce today they will be opening a Jersey City store. Lots of conversations to get this completed and I think it will be a huge positive for residents and visitors. I said it from the beginning… We aren’t playing around, and we all share the goal of wanting to push forward a stronger city. This store will be located outside the Grove Street Path Station.”
On the surface, this is great news, but from a logistical standpoint, I feel we need a bit more information. From the rendering, the new store looks to be a low-rise, maybe even a one story structure. I would hope, the Planning Board wouldn’t approve another big-box style fiasco in Jersey City after seeing what a failure Metro Plaza has been from a planning standpoint. That would be a step backward.
Further, what’s the parking situation? A surface lot? Let’s hope not.
Has anyone done a traffic study? That corner of Columbus Dr and Marin Blvd is a nightmare
at rush hour during most of the day. If you’ve ever experienced the Shoprite parking lot and how it causes traffic to back up on Marin, then I’m frightened to see how Whole Foods would impact traffic. Even more so on the weekends when traffic from the turnpike cuts through Jersey City en route to the Holland Tunnel.
Based on population growth trends and the push of development away from the waterfront, in 2020 when Whole Foods is slated to open, we’ll be looking at a very different city. Personally, I think, barring an economic disaster, by 2020 Journal Square will be the center of the city. Wouldn’t it make more sense to plan the Whole Foods in one of the new towers there which already have giant retail spaces planned and could better accommodate the traffic and parking requirements? Not to mention, easier access for the majority of Jersey City residents.
Also, remember about a year ago when Mayor Fulop proposed, and city council approved, a measure to restrict chain stores downtown? Granted this measure doesn’t apply to national grocers, but to publicly decry one chain then boastfully promote another feels contradictory. What happened to supporting small businesses? You can’t tell me Tender Shoot and all the other small grocers that have provided for the community for years won’t be impacted negatively.
Or what about the Sunac Market opening up literally right across the street? I bet they’re not pleased with the news.
Don’t get me wrong – I love Whole Foods and have dreamt of this announcement. But shouldn’t we prioritize what’s best for the community? Not just what makes the best headline.