By Dave Fidlin

Correspondent

While nothing is set in stone, City Manager Cameron Clapper said he remains bullish on the quest to bring a full-service grocer back to Whitewater.

Clapper, who has been filling in as the city’s economic development liaison while the search for a permanent candidate continues, discussed some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvers at a Community Development Authority board of directors meeting July 25.

“Currently, staff is addressing two independent leads that, if successfully brought to fruition, could result in a commercial grocery store development,” Clapper told CDA board members at the recent meeting.

But he prefaced his remarks by stating, “No commitments have been made.”

Based on the feelers out there, Clapper said there is interest in the development community for a grocery store in Whitewater. But he said several pieces of the puzzle must come together for the plan to ultimately coalesce.

“The challenge has been, and will be, coordinating the right deal between the owner of an available property, the builder of a commercial facility and the operator of a grocery store,” Clapper said.

Of the two leads in play, Clapper told the CDA board that one of them was “strong.” Clapper declined to go into any detail on specific developers or would-be retailers in open session because of the confidential nature of the discussions.

Speaking to the stronger of the two leads, Clapper said, “He wants to talk about incentives that are available in the city, and I’m interested in talking to him about what types of development would go into his plan for that property.”

One possible lever the city could pull to sweeten any deal is incentives through the economic opportunity zone, or EOZ, program that was announced last fall. Former Gov. Scott Walker designated portions of Whitewater as EOZ areas in an effort to spur additional development.

In addition to the two leads, Clapper said he and other municipal officials are attempting to follow-up and forge new relationships with would-be grocers who might be interested in doing business in Whitewater.

“Staff has a list of grocers and developers in the state that have been contacted in the past,” Clapper said. “Staff will be circling back with these developers within the next few weeks.”

While no firm plans are on the table at this point, Al Stanek, who chairs the CDA’s board of directors, said he remains optimistic a full-service grocer will eventually return to Whitewater.

“I guess it’s safe to say progress is being made,” Stanek said. “But progress only works as fast as it wants to be.”

Whitewater is nearing the fourth consecutive year without a full-service grocer.

The city lost its sole retailer in the category when local businessman Terry Daniels closed his Sentry store at 1260 W. Main St. in late 2015. The nearby Walmart, however, does sell a limited selection of grocery items.

The CDA’s talk runs alongside a separate endeavor, Whitewater Grocery Co., under a co-op model.

 
 

No comments

Be the first one to leave a comment.

Post a Comment