Trader Joe’s opted to terminate plans to build a new grocery store in a predominantly black neighborhood. The decision to withdrawn development plans and job offers reportedly stems from vocal opposition from the Portland African American leadership forum. The group sent a “scathing” letter to city officials criticizing the move because it does not “primarily benefit the black community.”
The Portland Development Commission was prepared to ink a deal with Trader Joe’s to sell a property which had been vacant for years at a steep discount. The nationwide chain has now pulled out of the planned deal amid the growing controversy and racial issues. As a result, the community has lost the benefit of the jobs a new business would create and the city lost tax revenues.
A comment by a Trader Joe’s representative during an interview with The Oregonian reads:
“We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple. If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand and we won’t open the store in question.”
The Portland African American Leadership Forum letter also maintained that a Trader Joe’s would price residents out of the neighborhood and would increase displacement of low-income residents.
An excerpt from the Portland African American Leadership Forum Trader Joe’s letter reads:
“[The grocery store] would increase the desirability of the neighborhood for non-oppressed populations. The decision reflects the city’s overall track record of implementing policies that serve to uproot, displace, and disempower our most vulnerable community members. “
The letter sent to Mayor Charlie Hales and other local officials also claimed that opposition by the group is “rooted in the well-documented” and continual attempt to garner profit at the expense of “black and low-income residents instead of attempting to “empower” that segment of the community. The Portland African American Leadership forum also noted that the proposed land deal benefited a wealthy family and a national corporation without mandating affordable housing being a part of the deal. “Gentrification and the economic inequality it [the Trader Joe’s deal] produces is not an unforeseen byproduct of increasing density or improving the livability of streets. The city of Portland cannot continue to sweep black and low-income people out of Inner NE Portland and claim success, the letter opposing the new business stated.
Old Town Brewing Company owner Adam Milne said there were no winners in the Trader Joe’s battle. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, and an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small business,” Milne said.
What do you think about the Portland African American Leadership Forum’s complaints and Trader Joe’s?