The presidential election is still raging in full bloom but for the locals the race for a new Mayor in Centreville, Woodstock, and West Blocton has been decided. On the first Monday of November the new municipal officials will be sworn into office and work begins to fulfill promises made to the voters during the campaigns. One of the most often asked questions around Centreville is “why don’t we have a new grocery store here”. Mr. Howard Cleveland probably never anticipated how much his grocery store on the square in Centreville would be missed. The Cleveland grocery has been closed for so long now most of the locals can not tell you the last year it operated. Brent Belcher recalls that Winn-Dixie operated in the Olon Heights Shopping Center from 1974 until 2007 so it is a fair assumption that Mr. Cleveland was out of business prior to 1974.
While this will now become the challenge for a new administration it is not a new question and it is not a problem that has gone unaddressed by previous Centreville Mayors and Councilmen. It has however, remained unsolved.
Recently, the efforts of another small city to bring a grocery store into their city limits was in the news. Mayor Tony Lester and the City of Moundville purchased a 7.5 acre tract of land along Highway 69 for commercial development and had high expectations that grocery stores were eager to locate in the Moundville community. The Mayor announced in January 2016 that a deal to bring a Piggly Wiggly to Moundville collapsed. Last week the Tuscaloosa News published an article about the failed possibility of bringing Fourth Avenue Supermarket, a Bessemer grocery operator, to the city of Moundville. In order to make that deal work the City of Moundville would have to develop the property they already purchased for development and borrow in addition more than $3.5 million dollars to build a grocery store facility for a tenant. According to City Clerk Carol Townsend, who was interviewed for this article, the City still has a commitment from ADECA for an $800,000 grant which would pay for Highway 69 road improvements to get highway traffic into the proposed site. At present the closest grocery store to Moundville is about 10 miles north, at Taylorville. The cost of developing a site to attract and provide incentives for a tenant to come in to Moundville has proven to be financially unrealistic for the city to bear, according to Townsend.
Centreville has faced the same scenario. The town treasury cannot buy (EDO people call it incentives) a grocery store for the town. Centreville could obtain a grant from ADECA for infrastructure improvements if an industry is committed to bringing jobs to the area. But Centreville does not yet own an industrial park or a site that is under development for any industry, including a grocery store. Grocery store chain executives that have been contacted in the past look at the population of Centreville and Brent and surmise that Brent already has three (3) operating retail outlets and see no financial formula for success in Centreville with the given population.
The most attractive location for a grocery store is along U.S. 82 in terms of visibility and traffic count. Some property along U.S. 82 is available but is not zoned for commercial development and re-zoning has been opposed by adjoining neighborhoods for many years. There is no sewer connection presently available on the North side of U.S. 82, West of the Cahaba River, in the City of Centreville.
If a private investor wants to purchase a tract of land and erect a $2.5 to $3 million building for a possible grocery tenant to come and occupy then a tenant might be attracted to come here. Any investors out there willing to take that risk?
Now that we have a german company (MollerTech) investing in North Bibb County no doubt there will be corporate officials and skilled workers desiring to move and live in the county and perhaps they will take a look at South Bibb. A modern grocery store will probably affect their decision on where to live. Lowenbrau and Strudel on aisle two.