ATLANTIC CITY — The consultant working with officials to bring a new supermarket to the resort said the store will include a high-tech security program, including facial recognition software, and will guarantee to hire from the local community, during a public meeting Thursday night at the MLK School Complex.
But the 20 or so residents who came out expressed concerns mainly about the lack of public transportation direct to the site, and the need to pick an operator that will provide a wide variety of food at a fair price.
The 40,000-square-foot building is set to go up in the next 18 months on land owned by the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, bounded by Ohio, Indiana and Baltic avenues and Bacharach Boulevard. The building will face Baltic Avenue, and there will be 200 parking spaces in front of it and on the side.
The need for a supermarket in the city was stressed in Jim Johnson’s September 2018 report on what needs to happen to improve the quality of life in the city, before it can return to local control from state control.
The CRDA will soon issue requests for proposal, said Executive Director Matt Doherty.
It will choose the best developer and operator with the help of City Council and Mayor Frank Gilliam Jr., taking into account the concerns expressed at public meetings, Doherty said.
There are two more public meetings set for 6 p.m. April 11 at the Uptown Complex School, and 6 p.m. April 23 at the Fannie Lou Hamer Room at Stockton University in the city.
Sylvester Showell, president of the 3rd Ward Civic Association, said there isn’t a bus route that will take people to the new store location.
“We are working with the Department of Transportation, and the jitneys,” said Atif Bostic, executive director of Uplift Solutions, the nonprofit consultancy group that is working with the CRDA to develop the supermarket and find an operator that will please the community. “It’s not uncommon to ask for new public transportation to service new projects.”
Marilyn Chambers asked if Bostic could reveal who the operator is likely to be. Bostic said a number of operators have expressed an interest but the formal process of taking requests for proposal will begin soon.
While Uplift worked with ShopRite in Newark, the operator here is more likely to be a smaller group or independent grocer, said Walt West, director of sustainable food solutions for Uplift.
Residents also asked for more name-brand items and a wide selection of foods.
The Sav-a-Lot in Renaissance Plaza stocks “Cowboy Billy” baked beans, said Jessica Brown, when she wants Bush’s.
“I mean Cowboy Billy — you’ve got to be kidding me,” she said.
And she also asked for a deli and fish section, both of which Bostic said will be included.
Bostic said police will be part of the security for the store, but it will mainly rely on technology and in-store security officers.
“There will be facial recognition (software), and there will be a loss-prevention program, with officers not only in the store, but in the parking lot and area,” Bostic said.
The last time the city had a supermarket was from 1996 to 2004, when it closed because of theft and vandalism.
Bostic said there is software that also picks up problem behaviors.
“If an individual is making threatening gestures, it picks it up and alerts the people monitoring,” said Bostic, who said there will also be a direct feed to the police station.
“Obviously you don’t want anyone to get arrested, but you want everyone to do the right thing,” Bostic said. “But you also want to have protocols in place.”
Bostic said Uplift has worked to develop or redevelop supermarkets in Newark and in northeast Philadelphia.