A new Ralph's is coming

February 12, 2010
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A contaminated property on the city’s west side will likely be redeveloped for a new version of Ralph’s Food Market, as city commissioners approved the owners’ request last week for a brownfield amendment.

Robert and Jeanne Enell have owned the independent grocery store at 655 Leonard St. NW since 1996. They also own the two properties they have targeted for the expansion of their market. They plan to invest $2.6 million into doing that and create 15 new jobs from the project, to push their total work force to 45.

One of the parcels, the larger of the two at 667 Leonard St. NW, is located immediately west of the current store. It once was home to a gas station and is contaminated. The site’s most recent tenant was a Blockbuster Video Store, but the blue-and-grey building has been vacant for years and will be demolished to make room for the new and larger Ralph’s.

The other property the Enells will incorporate into the project is at 1212 Davis Ave. NW, which is north of the current store.

“The project will get started shortly,” said Kara Woods, city economic development director.

The new Ralph’s will feature a state-of-the-art and energy-efficient refrigeration system, a new bakery, a bigger deli and a larger produce section. The Enells will keep the current store open during construction. When the work is done, the 62-year-old building will be razed for parking.

The Enells will ask the Michigan Economic Growth Authority for a business tax credit of $315,750 and for $155,000 in tax-increment financing for the environmental work. MEGA has to approve the requests. The project will generate $55,071 a year in new state and local taxes. No tax dollars will be abated.

The existing Ralph’s was built in 1948 and measures 11,870 square feet. The new store will be two-thirds larger at 20,000 square feet.

Ralph’s Food Market is the only grocery store serving that portion of the city’s northwest side. Robert Enell is also the store’s manager.

“The Enells are great people,” said Walt Gutowski, 1st Ward commissioner, “and are pillars of the community.”

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