Here they come. Three proposed grocery-anchored developments are vying to break ground in the Town of Truckee next year, and residents, business owners, and developers are all asking: How many grocery stores can one community really support?
Here, we present the most up-to-date information on each of these projects as well as some of the biggest concerns brought forth by our citizenry regarding the influx of expansion we’re slated to ingest this coming year.
If all three projects are approved in upcoming town planning commission meetings we will be looking at a Nugget Markets, a Raley’s, and an unnamed “specialty foods grocer” to join Safeway, SaveMart, and New Moon Natural Foods within our Town limits, thereby more than doubling the amount of grocery retail space within less than a year.
“None of the land use applications have been approved by the Town of Truckee. However, all of these grocery store projects are anticipated to be considered by the Truckee Planning Commission in the next few months,” wrote assistant planner Kirk Skierski in his most recent staff report.
When the projects come before the five-member commission for approval, several actions can be taken, including approval, denial, and the request for changes.
“The commission will look at a list of criteria that the project must meet,” said Town Planner Denyelle Nishimori. “It’s very rare that the commission outright denies a project. Typically, they will give a developer the chance to respond or modify their plans and work toward whatever responses need to happen.”
The Niche Market
The project proposal closest to downtown is a Nugget Markets within the Railyard extension of downtown Truckee.
“It’ll be interesting to see if they all get built,” said Douglas Wiele of Foothill Partners of the competing projects. “At the end of the day, the cash register needs to ring to survive. I’m ultimately confident about adding a grocery store to downtown Truckee. The core area is missing a daily needs component, so residents often don’t spend as much time in downtown as they ought to. We think adding daily needs strengthens the whole downtown and helps build a more vibrant community.”
Wiele also believes Nugget offers a niche market that Truckee residents are craving.
“We know from market research that there is significant demand from people who are going down to Reno to shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s,” Wiele said. “What we like about Nugget is that they appeal to the same shoppers. It’s a long way and a lot of greenhouse gases to go to Reno for groceries. We think Nugget will keep a significant portion of these people in downtown Truckee.”
The Flagship Store
The biggest project proposal comes in the form of a Raley’s on the open land between Truckee Tahoe Airport and the Truckee River.
The emergence of competition will not deter Raley’s from building their twelfth store in the greater Tahoe/Reno area, according to Chelsea Minor, Raley’s director of public relations. “We are full steam ahead!” she affirmed. “In this project, we are looking to serve an underrepresented part of the portfolio in an area we think of as both residential and vacation-oriented, so this will not impact our decision to move forward.”
According to Arthur Chapman of JMA Ventures, the project’s developer, Raley’s is planning their Truckee endeavor to become their flagship store for the entire corporation throughout the country. “We don’t want this to be a typical retail center,” Chapman says. “We want it to be an authentic local center where people can live, work, and shop with a variety of different stores, restaurants, and public art.”
Thirty-year part-time resident Vivian Euzent of the Ponderosa Ranchos neighborhood south of Brockway Road is looking forward to this prospect, even if she questions the need for three new grocery stores at once. “I’m so tired of having to cross the traffic and fight the train tracks to get to Safeway,” she says. “Maybe one or two of those new stores won’t make it, but I don’t know. I think overall the Town of Truckee has done a good job planning, so hopefully they’ll do a good job here, too.”
The Discount Mystery
So far, the project that has created the greatest controversy is the one at Gateway, across from the Safeway shopping plaza by the intersection of Donner Pass Road and State Highway 89.
Although Moonshine Ink spoke with numerous sources who suggested the proposed tenant to be discount store Grocery Outlet, no one was willing to confirm it on record yet. “We are not at liberty to say until the lease has been signed and executed,” says Capitol Avenue investor Patrick McCuen.
This development site has been through numerous iterations over the years. The most recent proposal to be shot down was for a BevMo store. “After looking at the prices at Safeway and other stores, [Capitol Avenue] thought a discount liquor place would fit,” says MWA Architecture and Engineering CEO Kurt Reinkens. “But the community got vocal and rejected it. I give Capitol Avenue a lot of credit. These guys are really sensitive and they realize that what is successful in Truckee is something that works for the community.”
Although Reinkens could not confirm the proposed tenant, he did drop a few hints. As part of his research for the incoming project he purchased items from identical shopping lists at Safeway in Truckee and the proposed grocer’s site in Auburn.
“I’m a bit of a foodie and I love organic fruits and vegetables,” he said. “I look for things like gourmet cheeses, organic milk, and free range eggs, and I was pleasantly surprised. What cost $134 at Safeway was only $84 at the other store.”
Upon hearing New Moon owner Billy Griffin share at the November planning commission meeting his concern that the development could hurt his bottom line, Reinkens wanted to assure his fellow businessman that Capitol Avenue has no intentions to bring direct competition to the natural foods market.
“Our tenant offers something different than he offers,” says Reinkens. “[Griffin’s] got a great niche and loyal following and some stuff that’s pretty progressive and cool, as well as the juice bar and prepared foods.”
Several residents from the Gateway neighborhood have expressed concerns over the proposed development. Jenny Smart and her husband are home owners on nearby Tahoe Drive with one daughter and another on the way. “One of the reasons we fell in love with the neighborhood is that it has great local vibe with lots of full-time families,” she says. “The main thing that really got me fired up and prompted me to write the Town was the proposal for the separate entrance on Vista Avenue. I can’t imagine a stream of cars entering and exiting at that point.”
According to Reinkens, the Vista Avenue entrance will be on the backside of the building opposite the main parking behind the loading docks. “We also studied their sightlines so we think we’ll offer improvement and a possible sound buffer,” he says. “We’ve planned for custom-designed lighting so as to not put light in their direction.” Major traffic improvements in this area are part of the Town’s long-term improvement plan including a potential traffic circle at the intersection of 89 and Donner Pass Road.
“Grocery is a very different sector of a local economy than any other, mainly because in the development of the shopping center the grocery is the anchor tenant,” says New Moon’s Griffin. “If you destabilize the anchor tenant it puts the whole development in peril … My recommendation to the Town is to approve these projects only when there is sufficient demand to do so.”