As SoHo loses a grocery institution, will it become a food desert?

Dive Brief:

  • Neighborhood SoHo stalwart Met Food has closed after more than 40 years due to a rent increase from $9,000 to $90,000 a month, according to the New York Times
  • The closing, combined with similar rent hikes among retail stores in the area, have many fearful that other "regular" grocery stores will soon become obsolete, creating a food desert. For older residents and those with limited means, this could be a significant problem.
  • According to a recent report by the Department of City Planning, SoHo is a bit under the ideal number of supermarkets per neighborhood, but in better shape than other New York area locales like South Brooklyn.

Dive Insight:

Food deserts, defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as places with no easy access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, are found mostly in impoverished areas with a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and healthy food providers. These kinds of access challenge often bring an increase in shoppers buying processed, sugary and fat-laden foods that are known contributors to the nation’s obesity epidemic.

The closing of Met Food is obviously not on the same spectrum, as SoHo is considered a high-income area. The wealthy neighborhood also means retail spaces are getting harder to come by, as condos and office buildings bring in more revenue. Grocery retailers in high-end areas like this can find it hard to keep up with rent as owners look to convert the properties.

According to Cushman & Wakefield, retail rents in SoHo were going for about $523 per square foot in the third quarter of 2016, an increase of more than 13 percent of where it was in the third quarter of 2015.

As more grocery stores fall by the wayside, an uptick in online grocery shopping is expected — especially in cities like New York where millennial residents are looking to follow the latest fad. For long-time residents of the area, many of whom are older and don't have the means of the newer residents moving into the area, online shopping could also be a way to continue to afford the fresh and healthy foods they love.

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Filed Under: Grocery