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Downtown Indianapolis could be the city's next food desert

Posted at 7:24 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-10 12:08:43-04

INDIANAPOLIS – With the prospect of more than 40 Marsh Supermarkets permanently closing their doors, shoppers in several Indianapolis neighborhoods are worrying about where they’ll be able to purchase essential food items.

If Marsh does not find a buyer within the next 60 days, more food deserts could spring up around the city. One of the areas of concern lies within the borders of downtown.

As an Indiana staple, Marsh opened its first store in Muncie in 1931 and located hundreds of locations across the Ohio Valley. Two stores eventually opened in downtown Indianapolis – one at 320 N. New Jersey Street and another at 227 W. Michigan Street.

The West Michigan Street store was built to “anchor” the downtown development of an apartment complex called the Axis and an adjacent parking garage.

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Downtown grocery shopping options

With an already scarce number of groceries available for downtown dwellers, the closing of the two Marsh locations would leave even fewer choices for shoppers.

The immediate downtown area offers just three main grocery options, with two of them being Marsh stores.

Just one Kroger store can be found between Monument Circle and East 16th Street. Other stores are about a 15-minute car trip away:

  • Kroger: 2630 W. Michigan Street
  • Kroger: 4445 E. 10th Street
  • Kroger: 680 Twin Aire Drive

Smaller stores like Pogue’s Run Grocer and Save-A-Lot on Indy’s far east side sell fruits, vegetables and other essentials, however, they are not located in the immediate downtown area.

A trip from the center of the city – Monument Circle – to the Kroger at 2630 W. Michigan Street would require a nearly two-hour walk there and back – not to mention the limited amount of groceries that would need to be purchased if walking.

 

Downtown’s sizzling real estate

Over the past five years, Indianapolis’ downtown has welcomed new businesses, luxury apartment buildings, lofts and condominiums.

According to Downtown Indy Inc., more than 190 projects totaling over $1 million have been completed since 2010, which has resulted in nearly a $4 billion investment in the city.

“More than 3,300 new residential units are currently in the pipeline through 2018. It’s estimated that the residential population will increase from 17,589 to 34,000 by 2018.” according to the 2016 Downtown Living Guide produced by Downtown Indy.

 

Impacting the city’s development

Of the top 10 reasons to live downtown, Indy’s walkability is listed in the top 5 in the Downtown Living Guide. Millennials may find downtown attractive for this exact reason – it’s been marketed as walkable and bikeable.

 

One of the city’s biggest walkable attractions is the $20 million Indianapolis Cultural Trail that features eight paths, public art and is home to the city’s Pacers Bikeshare program.

RELATED | Indianapolis named a 'dream city' for millennials | Vogue called Indianapolis "modern and walkable"

The city has continuously been named one of the top walkable cities by walkability.com – this includes options to walk to nearby restaurants, bars, events and grocery stores.

If the two downtown Marsh locations closed, this option would no longer be on the table for those who live downtown, like students at IUPUI who may not have reliable transportation.

Those who chose to live downtown because of the easy access to grocers like Marsh could be forced to look for other options if the city’s core transforms into a food dessert.

 

According to the American Nutrition Association, “food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”

Seeing as downtown Indy is not considered an “impoverished area” due to booming development, the potential closing of Marsh Supermarkets could put people in a tough spot.

PREVIOUS | Seven more Marsh stores to close in May, including three stores in Indianapolis

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said he is concerned about the impact the store closures could have on the city. He released the following statement:

"This afternoon, I reached out to (Marsh) corporate leadership to express my concern with the announcement that they may close a number of store locations in the area. Closing all of these stores at once would leave swaths of our city without a dependable source for high-quality food, and could affect hundreds of hardworking residents. Effective immediately, I have directed city leaders to aggressively engage with the company and use all tools at our disposal to prevent and mitigate the effects of these potential decisions.”

 

The potential closings also put more than 2,000 jobs at risk. A Marsh spokesperson said 2,788 part-time and full-time employees would be laid off.