Trader Joe’s grocery chain has canceled plans to open in a predominantly black Portland community after it was denied by its leaders because of the concern of gentrification. The Oregon community’s fear was that the grocery store opening could attract a wealthier population into the community that could create displacement and inequality.
“We run neighborhood stores, and our approach is simple. If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question,” Trader Joe’s responded in an official statement. The company reportedly told The Oregonian that it will not try to press the controversial issue, and the grocery chain will simply walk away from all aspects of the development.
Community activists proclaimed that Trader Joe’s high prices were too expensive and not affordable for black families. Activists argued that income equality and displacement would become prevalent around the community. After the strong opposition of opening a Trader Joe’s in the predominately black Portland community, the grocery chain ultimately decided to pull out of all plans for the development with the activists denying the development.
The price of the intended property where Trader Joe’s would have been located was to be heavily discounted from $2.9 million down to $500,000 by the Portland Development Commission. Trader Joe’s was intended to be the primary offering of a two-building development that would feature anywhere from four to 10 retail stores accompanied by a 100-space parking lot. However, African-American activists strongly opposed the development.
Founded in 2009, the Portland African-American Leadership Forum (PAALF) “… is a group of African-American leaders united around an agenda of equity in education, economic development, housing and health issues,” according to The Oregonian. The initial approval in the opening of Trader Joe’s by Majestic Realty in Portland was referred by PAALF as “fraught with injustice.”
In December of last year, PAALF wrote a biting letter to the Portland city leaders concerning the opening of the Monrovia, California-based grocery chain. The letter suggested how the opening of Trader Joe’s in the community would “[increase] the economic pressures that are responsible for the displacement of low-income and black residents.”
The proposed letter warned about how the grocery store would make the neighborhood desirable to “non-oppressed populations.” PAALF heavily objected to the Portland Development Commission and the City of Portland’s past rulings that “have consistently supported projects that have displaced existing residents and attracted wealthier ones in their place.”
One of PAALF’s many problems with the intended development was the fact that “[the] subsidy primarily benefits the Roski family, one of the richest families in the country.” The fact that Trader Joe’s is a national corporation that could benefit from the opening was also mentioned in the letter.
Even though Trader Joe’s are commonly located in urban areas across the country, the strong opposition from PAALF denied the predominantly black Portland community from the popular grocery chain. But Trader Joe’s has accepted the community’s negative feelings towards the opening of its store, and in response they have canceled all plans to open the grocery store.
By Glen Parris