The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to approve an incentives package for a new Food Giant supermarket in the city’s Five Points West area.
The store will be located at 2257 Bessemer Road, the former location of a Winn-Dixie store that shut down in 2018 after the chain filed for bankruptcy. In 2020, former NFL player Karlos Dansby announced plans to open a new grocery store in that location, but those plans fizzled ignominiously.
Food Giant, owned by the Albertville-based Mitchell Grocery Corp., will receive $640,000 from the city for property improvement, in particular to divide the existing 50,000-square-foot building into two units; the Food Giant will take up only an estimated 22,000 square feet.
“That $640,000 is not working capital, it does not go into their pocket,” said Cornell Wesley, the city’s director of innovation and economic opportunity. “It goes into the building, to cut the building to size, to mirror today’s standard for grocery.”
That $640,000 will come from a $2 million grocery store recruitment fund that was established in December.
The incentives package also includes a decade-long revenue-sharing agreement. The city will reimburse the store for 50% of the sales tax revenue it generates over the next 10 years, up to $100,000 per year.
Mayor Randall Woodfin told councilors that the deal was part of his administration’s approach to removing food deserts in the city. According to 2019 estimates, more than two-thirds of the city’s population lives in areas without convenient access to fresh food.
“We’ve been aggressive since day one in finding the most creative things we can do to support putting a dent in food insecurity and getting more grocery stores in our community,” he said. “I think we’ve been told ‘no’ a gazillion times. … Now, we’re happy to share with the public that a brand that is known, that people trust and that provides quality food is coming back to Birmingham.”
Mitchell Foods Vice President of Retail Operations Jay Mitchell said the store will recruit local staff through social media, hiring events and job fairs. “We will be bringing some team (members) from our adjacent stores, but most of the hiring will be right here,” he said, adding that the average wage will be between $11 and $12 per hour.
Wesley said the deal shows “evidence of momentum and evidence of the work” put into fighting food deserts, adding that there is still $1.36 million left in the grocery store recruitment fund. “There are still resources left,” he told councilors, “which means we still have two and maybe three other opportunities to come into your appropriate districts and duplicate these efforts.”