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    Downtown Columbus Seeks Grocery Chain

    COLUMBUS, Ohio - A push for downtown housing in Columbus, Ohio, has brought with it a drive to find a grocery store for support, Business First of Columbus reports.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio - A push for downtown housing in Columbus, Ohio, has brought with it a drive to find a grocery store for support, Business First of Columbus reports.

    Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's Co. are said to be looking for expansion sites in Columbus, and downtown is on their shopping lists, though neither company will confirm their interest, according to the report.

    Some developers think a downtown grocer is critical for Columbus' housing plan to develop, but first they must convince potential suitors that there is a customer base there to support it.

    "It really is the chicken-or-the-egg problem," said developer Don M. Casto III, principal of the Don M. Casto Organization. "The folks who are going to live downtown want to know where they can shop for groceries, and the grocery store wants to know it'll have customers."

    The issue has become a priority for the Columbus Downtown Development Corp., the city affiliate spearheading inner-city development.

    "We believe the downtown needs a new, state-of-the-art fresh foods market," said Tom Lussenhop, CDDC's chief executive. "We're a big, cosmopolitan city. There are a lot of urban grocery formats rolling out across the country and it would be wonderful to have one of those downtown."

    Lussenhop said CDDC has worked with several property owners, whom he declined to identify, to find an appropriate downtown site for a grocer. The development agency could assist in assembling a site or offer gap financing through its Downtown Housing Investment Fund if the project is primarily residential with a grocery store component.

    But other developers aren't sure a grocery store is needed right now, if at all.

    The timing may be premature, one developer said. Another said that tenants in his downtown apartment buildings and condo projects would have cars, which means they could drive to supermarkets near the center city.

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