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KCK grocery store design one step closer to final approval

Posted at 6:00 PM, Mar 11, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The design for downtown Kansas City, Kansas' grocery store is one step closer to the finish line.

Based on feedback from four community meetings, the Unified Government chose option three for what The Merc Co+op will look like.

“I think a lot of people thought it looked a bit more inviting and welcoming,” Katherine Carttar, UG Director of Economic Development, said.

The Planning Commission is expected to approve the design at its next 7 p.m. meeting and send it to the full commission.

“We got a lot of input on different colors, so we’re exploring now taking the base of that design and playing around with it a little bit with some different materials,” Carttar said.

Instead of the beige, people wanted the warmer color from option no. 2

The UG and The Merc are still developing a plan for what the inside will look like.

Around 200 people came to the community meetings. Based on surveys and comments, people wanted to see an emphasis on fresh produce and meats. They didn't want something too fancy or modern, but also want weekly discounts. A salad bar, coffee shop, seating area, an outside overhang, and security are other top priorities.

Down the street, a few doors down from KCKPD Headquarters, Chips and Coins is rapidly expanding. The Cuban-based business started as a convenience store and now has a small grocery selection with frozen vegetables and other non-perishables. They added to their hot lunch menu and are expanding the store into the former Chinese restaurant next door.

“We’re surrounded by a fixed-income community," Maria Lopez, co-owner of Chips and Coins, said. "A lot of our customer base is on a fixed-income and with some government assistance.”

Lopez and her business partner, Mike Benitez, said they’re filling a need for government, office, and law enforcement workers as well as the people who live nearby.

They don’t think The Merc will hurt their business.

“I don’t think there will be a conflict," she said. "I think that they may be able to provide more items that we’re not able to house at the moment."

Plus, Lopez says, their customers come in for something quick, unlike a grocery store.

Other than Chips and Coins, there are at least three other larger markets just minutes away from downtown KCK, such as Rio Bravo, El Torito II, and Bonito Michoacán. They are Latino-focused places where you can get all the essentials like meat, bread and eggs.

“I really think this just raises the amount of capacity we have in terms of our offerings in downtown and will make it a more viable option for people to live,” Carttar said.

The University of Kansas Health System's new Strawberry Hill campus on the east side of 5th St. will be up and running by the time The Merc opens its doors. That was a big factor in the grocery store's location.

“We fully expect to see that these are just dominoes that will start falling," Carttar said. "We already have gotten a lot of interest in other projects in the downtown area."

The full commission is slated to approve a design on March 28, then send it back to the Planning Commission for final approval on April 8.

The UG hopes to break ground this summer and open the store in January 2020.