Atlantic City is slated to get its first supermarket in 15 years after several business, state and local officials broke ground Nov. 18 on a new ShopRite backed by tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks and public financing.
Construction will start in 2022 and take between 13 and 15 months, ending the city’s status as a “food desert,” where a majority of residents who rely on public transit have no access to a grocery store.
The 2006 closure of the IGA Supermarket at the Renaissance Plaza, Gov. Phil Murphy said, meant that Atlantic City residents “have been limited to bodegas and small corner options offering few healthy and affordable options.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the resort posted some of the nation’s highest unemployment rates.
“There’s going to be consistent access to healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables, and not merely convenience foods pumped full of preservatives,” Murphy added during the groundbreaking ceremony. “It is going to mean consistent access to brand-name products – not just off-brand discount goods.”
Once finished, the grocery store will occupy 44,000 square feet at 1801 Baltic Ave., adjacent to the Atlantic City Convention Center, and create an expected 75 to 100 jobs. The site will also include a 10,400-square-foot mezzanine for administrative offices, and 227 parking spaces.
“They said we would never get a big-name supermarket here,” said Atlantic City Mayor Marty Smalls.
To attract the store, the city will allow Village Super Market, which is operating the ShopRite, to pay $1 a year in taxes, according to the Press of Atlantic City, though it is not clear how long that tax break will last.
Village Supermarket officials last month told the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority that without the public funding, the project could not move forward, the Press added. On top of that, the CRDA is putting up $18.75 million of its own funds.
Bill Sumas, Village Super Market’s chairman, would not tell reporters whether or not the project would have gone forward without the public financing. But he remained confident that Village would have had the funds to cover the nearly $19 million price tag even without any public subsidies.
“Not everyone was lining up to come here,” outgoing Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-3rd District, said on Nov. 18. “They’re not looking to profit. They’re putting people before profit … Sometimes it’s not just about the money. It’s about what you can do for people.”d