Give Zupan’s some credit. Sure, the Vancouver-based chain is expensive. The owners were also a bit late to the locavore, organic, grass-fed game.
But Zupan’s deserves plaudits for moving into the Belmont district in 1995, when the SE neighborhood was known more for drug houses and social services than coffee bars and hipsters.
As the Belmont Dairy’s retail anchor, the upscale grocer also played an historic role in the evolution of mixed use development. The project has become a national model for its mix of affordable and market rate housing, as well as the shopping-below, housing-on-top infill design.
In a city where ample parking is still considered a “non-negotiable,” Zupan’s postage stamp of an underground lot also blazes new trails.
In fact, nobody in their right mind would choose to drive to the Belmont site, as the miniscule parking spaces are almost impossible to maneuver with anything but a SmartCar.
Zupan’s sidewalk orientation connects the building to the neighborhood–as do floor to ceiling windows that allow passers by tantalizing views of fruit and produce displays.
Contrast that design with New Season’s strip mall parking lots on SE Division and NE 33rd–an aesthetic and traffic congestion nightmare.
And let’s not forget the truly hideous Trader Joe’s parking lot on NE 42nd; as penance, that store should be forced to affix a Scarlet P (for parking) to each of its overly packaged food products.
To avoid such eyesores, the city should institute parking maximums for grocery stores, creating a level playing field between the independents and the big chains (with big parking lots) such as Safeway and Fred Meyer. The city could also require metered parking, with higher rates during peak hours–a kind of congestion pricing scheme for supermarkets.
Would food buying grind to a halt if all free parking suddenly disappeared? Of course not. Rather, the policy would spark all sorts of innovative transportation initiatives–and perhaps make smaller corner grocers more viable.
But back to Zupan’s.
There’s a lot of talk about “food deserts” and grocers, other than WalMart, who are leery of moving into outer SE Portland neighborhoods.
If only Zupan’s would move into Lents Town Center—now that would usher in a new era of Portland grocery store innovation.