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Published: Thursday, 10/15/2009

Kroger said no to $12M in incentives, Toledo reports

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The city of Toledo offered Kroger officials an incentive package worth $12 million in grants and low-interest loans to avoid closing the Manhattan Plaza grocery store, but the company refused, Toledo Development Director Ricci Gardner said yesterday.

"We offered them that much in various grants and low-interest loans, and those grants would have enabled them to go in and upgrade the facility, upgrade the equipment they needed to do, put on a new facade, do repairs that needed to be done outside, and we were willing to help them with security," Mr. Gardner said.

The company wasn't interested, but Kroger did ask the city to build a new store at the location in order to stay open.

"They said it was to the point where we would have had to build a brand-new store and they said they knew the city was not going to do that - which was true, because we were not," Mr. Gardner said.

"The majority was going to be low-interest loans and not much was city money," Mr. Gardner said. "Most of it was state and federal money."

Toledo Councilman Lindsay Webb, whose district includes the store, said Kroger has now closed all of its "urban core stores" throughout Ohio.

"We will be using those same type of incentive packages to bring a high-quality, low-cost grocer to the neighborhood," Ms. Webb said. "This is essential to a neighborhood because without a full-service grocery store in a neighborhood, it's hard to raise a family."

Amy McCormick, a Kroger spokesman, could not be reached for comment last night.

Last week, Kroger officials would not budge from their decision to close the Manhattan Plaza grocery store.

Kroger Co. Chief Executive David Dillon was asked by more than 30 members of North Toledo's Lagrange Village Council to reverse the decision or postpone the closing until a replacement store could be found.

At the time, Ms. McCormick said the store was not profitable.

Mr. Gardner said the city would not give up on getting another grocer into the location.

"We are currently working with some of the people that live in the area, the Lagrange Village Council, and some of the folks that were customers so we have who will define what they would like to see in a store there," he said. "The city is looking for someone to come in there and the people in the neighborhood are part of the process … We have no intention of leaving that vacant."

Kroger hired a Toledo firm, TLC Transportation, to provide free transportation from the shuttered store to and from the Jackman Road Kroger three days a week.

The shuttle operates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. It leaves Manhattan Plaza those days at 10 a.m., 10:30 a.m., and 11 a.m. The return times are 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and noon. The service is to continue until Jan. 2, "at which time we will evaluate how well it is working," Ms. McCormick previously said.

Terry Glazer, chief executive of United North, North Toledo's community development corporation, said he was told the store was profitable and had opportunities to expand.

"I have come to the conclusion that Kroger always intended to close," Mr. Glazer said. "They never looked into why business was down; they didn't invest any money in that store. It's a small, old store, and they never contacted our neighborhood organization and asked for ways to save it."

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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