$700,000 Taxpayer Money to Fund New ‘Royal Blue' Bishop Arts Location Proposal Raises Some Eyebrows

The city of Dallas often provides economic incentives to businesses in exchange for jobs and the services they provide the community.

A new proposal is raising some eyebrows ahead of a City Council vote.

Should a convenience store, described by some city leaders as 'upscale,' get $700,000 of taxpayer dollars to expand into Bishop Arts?

That is what Royal Blue Grocery store is asking for from the city.

Breathing new life into the old, shuttered Bolsa Mercado along West Davis Street could happen.

But at what cost?

Born and raised in Oak Cliff, artist Patricia Rodriguez struggles with the idea of gentrification creeping in closer, especially when it comes to grocery stores.

"I do think a grocery store is needed, but an affordable one," she said.

634 West Davis Street could soon be home to Royal Blue Grocery.

Described as a 'compact, urban market' by city officials, Blue Royal has three locations in Dallas including Highland Park and two locations downtown.

But for the doors on West Davis Street to open its owners say they need $700,000 from Dallas taxpayers, half in the form of a grant and the other half in the form of a 5-year repayable loan.

The shop sells an assortment of wine as well as specialty and basic food products, including produce grown locally.

This week, we found orange juice for $5.99, a dozen eggs for $6.99 and a gallon of milk for $5.99.

"For eggs?! Oh my God," said a shocked Rodriguez. "It being so expensive and them wanting to rely on the city to pay for their business, a business that we won't be able to afford to shop at. I'm totally against it."

The funding request garnered concern from a few City Council members during a recent Economic Development Committee meeting.

"I'm extremely distraught at an attempt to add monies to an already successful flourishing company," said council member Carolyn King Arnold.

One member called it a 'fancy convenience store' and voiced concern about the store paying $15/hr wage, but a wage that includes tips.

Zac Porter is one of the owners and was present during the committee meeting.

"Each store even Main Street to the Arts District to Bishop Arts they're all going to be completely different in a year, six months, two years. We're going to stock it with what that customer wants," said Porter. "So some of our stores might be a little more high-end, some might be very mundane."

Perhaps one of the biggest concern for both the city and residents: Is there a need for a city-backed grocery store in this area of Bishop Arts?

There are two grocery stores half a mile away and another a little over two miles away, according to our calculations.

"When you've got a food desert to the south and you have a legitimate food just north of there," said council member Omar Narvaez. "Is this really where we want to put our dollars?"

Supporters within the city and council member for this district Chad West insist it's about helping small business.

"This isn't an attempt to fill a food desert, it'll help," said West. "But it's more of an attempt to put economic dollars in a place where we're going to get economic return for it and we're also going to get jobs."

The owners of Royal Blue said based on their studies they anticipate the store's performance will be too low to be successfully redeveloped and run long-term.

Porter told committee members they can't even secure financing from the bank without the city's help.

Resident Jose Cisneros walked home from Fiesta Food and said he would be willing to pay a little more if it cuts down on his trek to Fiesta.

"My father's parents moved to this block in 1908," said Ninette McDonald.

McDonald's family has helped preserve Bishop Arts' homes for generations.

She isn't totally against the idea of the city helping Royal Blue.

But she would really prefer if whatever funds it gets for the redevelopment project are eventually repaid in full.

"A lot of people have a hard time accepting it because that location along Davis is blossoming," she said. "Seems to be doing fairly well by itself with conventional loans."

Even Rodriguez isn't telling Royal Blue that they're not welcome.

"But you pay for it. You pay for it," she said with a laugh.

Although the proposal passed the Economic Development Committee with a recommendation that the full city council approve it, it may not be a done deal.

As of Thursday, the city and Royal Blue are reportedly still negotiating the terms of the proposal.

Council member Chad West asked Royal Blue's owners to hold a community meeting to get feedback before it goes to the full council.

Furthermore, the council could approve it as it, or just parts of it: only the loan or only the grant.

The proposal goes to the full City Council for a vote on Dec. 11.

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