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Trader Joe’s: ‘We sell groceries’

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No mas, Trader Joe’s said today.

As Kelly Poe reports, it wants no part of Greensboro’s political squabbling.

So, the trendy specialty grocer is pulling out, for a second time, in its attempt to locate a store in the Friendly Shopping Center area.

“We are no longer interested in the proposed site in Greensboro, and we are not interested in any other sites in Greensboro at this time,” Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki wrote in an email to local media. “Instead, we are focusing our attention on sites in other cities around the country.

She added, somewhat more colorfully: “We don’t get in the middle of political battles or discussions about zoning … we sell groceries.”

Some of you took me to task for linking Trader Joe’s and a rezoning of a site at Friendly and Hobbs to house the grocer in a new shopping center as a package deal.

But I still believe you couldn’t separate the two.

Trader Joe’s wanted that site and that site alone as its new Greensboro location.

I understand the concern of some neighbors. Friendly Shopping Center has kept growing and growing, to the east and the west.

But it seems doubtful to me that the land in question will work financially as a residential development, wedged as it already is between commercial properties.

So, what would fit?

Could they wind up with something much less desirable?

And could a coveted Trader Joe’s have been the best long-term hope there?

The question now is whether the developer will go forward with the rezoning request without Trader Joe’s.

For many of the neighbors, who say they love Trader Joe’s but hate the site, it could be a lose-lose proposition.

A former chairwoman of the Greensboro Zoning Commission, Cyndy Hayworth, said in an interview today that commercial development at the site is inevitable.

"This corner will never be residential," she said. "It's just not going to happen."

Naturally, some, if not most, City Council members probably are hoping the developer retreats — and that the issue ends here and now.

That would get this 850-pound gorilla off their backs politically. At least for a little while.

Update: Hayworth added this in a voicemail this morning:

When I was on (the) Zoning Commission for six-years, I was very neighborhood-conscious and considered by most developers as neighborhood-friendly, which meant, if a project was coming to the zoning commission and it involved neighborhoods, it was going to get a high level of scrutiny from me involved. You can check my record and it certainly will be substantiated.

It’s not that I wasn't conscious about the neighborhood concerns in the Trader Joe’s effort.  

But in this particular development, that block, and particularly that corner, was pretty much dictated by the Friendly-Holden Building and the church.

So, because of the size of the lot and the buffer that would be substantial to the people on Hobbs Road, it’s a really small piece of property for a developer to do any type of residential (development). I just wanted that understood.

I usually side with neighborhoods on a lot of issues, but on this one, I think we’ve really missed a chance to put something friendly for all people on that corner.

Update: Kelly Poe on whether Trader Joe's still might come (some day).


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