New grocer coming to downtown St. Paul

Dec. 27--Lunds is coming to downtown St. Paul. While grocery stores come and go in other parts of the city, downtown hasn't had one in decades.

That's why the Lunds announcement is such great news for the city and its 14,000 downtown residents and 65,000 workers. In addition to providing long-needed access to a supermarket, the store will help boost the tax base, attract new residents and contribute to community building.

Early this month, Lunds Food Holdings said it will build a 30,000-square-foot store as part of an $88 million mixed-use project called the Penfield. The development, on 10th and Robert streets, will include a hotel and upscale apartments. Construction is scheduled to begin in the fall.

Developers are hoping that a St. Paul Lunds will be as successful as a similar Minneapolis store just northeast of downtown. Built in 2006, the market quickly became a community focal point in a growing neighborhood of lofts and condos. So a second core-city store near Hennepin Avenue S. between 10th and 11th streets is on the drawing board.

Other supermarkets located in urban developments have shown that they encourage walking and buying smaller quantities of fresh food more often. With a grocery store close by, residents and workers are more likely to leave the car parked and stroll to the store for a few items at a time, similar to the way many urban Europeans shop. That's good for healthy lifestyles and for the region's carbon footprint.

In addition, as some city leaders point out, a downtown market offers a psychological lift of sorts. It signals that a developing urban neighborhood is succeeding and encourages condo shoppers to seriously consider living downtown.

When an upscale grocer such as Lunds makes this kind of investment -- especially in this challenging economy -- it's a good sign for the future of downtown living.