This is it. This is a picture of a tent in a lot in Midtown Detroit around sunrise. But it is so much more than that, because one day it will be the location of the Most Important Grocery Store in America. Today is the groundbreaking for Whole Foods Detroit, and in case you are just joining us and can't grasp the important importance, here are a few quick facts to catch you up on why today matters.
1. For years they called Detroit the food desert, aka the city with no grocery stores. That was not entirely true. We have grocery stores, just not major chain grocery stores, not a one! Apparently being the city that Kroger shunned was supposed to embarrass us to the rest of America.
2. Well take that, rest of America, because now Whole Foods thinks we're worth the investment. Ok, so they got some incentives [According to Crain's, they are expected to get $1.5 million in local and community foundation funds, $1.2 million in federal tax credits and $1.5 million in state incentives] but it's still a high profile venture for the brand.
3. Never mind Detroit's three casinos. The world has decided that the decision to open a store here is a Big Gamble. So now everyone is watching to see if it will be a win; this is a store under one hell of a media microscope. Most Important Grocery Store in America? Maybe the world. To the rest of America, midtown Detroit is not an "expensive neighborhood" (we're sure some locals disagree!) The big story today will be about a "burgeoning" area getting a big bourgeois brand boost.
4. A recent article in Salon took an in-depth look at Whole Foods effect, the brand's ability to raise real estate values. Gentrification at work or a sign that it is time to buy in Midtown like-right-now? The effect seems to work by certifying a neighborhood as a "quality buy." Where Whole Foods goes, so do other retailers follow.
5. So will Whole Foods really get to take credit for boosting property value as predicted, and will all those incentives seem prudent in the long run? Which is to say, can you buy a turn-around with the right foodie-neighborhood boost? This strategy has totally worked in Detroit before: Slows still gets credit for changing the Corktown neighborhood. Will Whole Foods effect eclipse it?
6. Obviously no big questions will be answered today but it will be snack time! The groundbreaking kicks off at 9:45 a.m. today and we'll be live-tweeting about everything we're eating while looking for insta-gentrification and local development celebs. Follow @CurbedDetroit on twitter. The store is set to open in the spring of 2013 so expect a year of relentless construction updates here on the blog.
· Previous Whole Foods Detroit coverage [Curbed Detroit]