A potential tenant for 84 Whalley Ave., which Staples will vacate next Saturday, has some area residents up in arms.
Save-A-Lot, a national discount grocery chain, filed papers Friday seeking permission from the City Board of Zoning Appeals to turn the 17,000 square-foot building into a discount grocery store. Sheila Masterson, executive director of the Whalley Avenue Special Services District, an organization that advises businesses in the area, said she opposes the proposal because, based on studies the organization has commissioned, she thinks there could be a “higher and better use for that particular site.”
Whalley Avenue businesses must have an opportunity to thrive, she said, and because there are already three grocery stores on the street, Save-A-Lot is a less desirable tenant because it could draw customers from existing businesses.
Masterson said the Whalley Avenue Special Services District does not oppose Save-A-Lot’s proposal because it caters to a low-income clientele.
Three members of Whalley Avenue Revitalization, a citizen’s group that operates in the area, said they also oppose Save-a-lot’s proposal. Francine Caplan, the organization’s spokeswoman, said the area needs a greater variety of business. Caplan also said the organization does not oppose Save-A-Lot’s proposal because it would likely attract low-end customers.
Caplan and the revitalization organization met with Dan Charest, operations manager of the Acre Group, the New Hartford-based property management firm that manages 84 Whalley, to discuss potential tenants for the site.
“We told him we wanted things like a Target or something that would attract everybody in the city,” she said.
Masterson also said she would like to see a clothing chain such as TJ Maxx move into the lot. She said the lack of affordable clothing stores in the area forces New Haven residents to drive out of town to make basic purchases, which costs the city tax revenue.
“You can’t buy a plain old pair of socks in this town,” she said.
Kelly Yong, owner of Gourmet Heaven on Broadway, which is less than half a mile away from 84 Whalley Ave., said the grocery store would lose business if Save-A-Lot moved in.
“It’s not good for us,” she said. “I wish I could do something about it.”
Charest, who manages the property for owner Monquidh Al-Sawaaf, said Save-A-Lot has not yet formally tried to lease the property but is negotiating a prospective lease.
“We’re not sure of anything at this point,” he said. “[Save-a-lot] is doing their market analysis to see if they want to propose a lease.”
Although Save-A-Lot has formally proposed the move to the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals, Masterson said the still company needs to resolve issues pertain to parking availability and how Save-A-Lot will use the facility before they can lease the property.
New Haven Economic Development Administrator Kelly Murphy said as long as the zoning issues are resolved, Save-A-Lot will not have to seek further approval from the city before signing a lease.
“My office won’t have control over what company becomes the tenant,” she said.
Five New Haven residents interviewed expressed divided views on Save-A-Lot’s proposed move. Three of the five said they supported the proposal while the other two said they opposed it, saying there are already enough grocery stores in the city and that other businesses would better fill the space.
On the other hand, all six Yale students interviewed said they support Save-A-Lot’s proposal because they would benefit from the new store’s location and cheap prices.
The Board of Zoning Appeals will consider Save-a-lot’s proposal during its next meeting Dec. 8.