Few things are more vital in a low-income neighborhood than easy access to a grocery store. So news that Walmart will open one of its smaller grocery markets in the former Sweetbay store in St. Petersburg's Midtown is a welcome development in a neighborhood where many residents are without cars and jobs are scarce.
Walmart will open a hiring center next month in anticipation of a January opening, and Mayor Bill Foster said city staff will make sure the permitting process fits that timeline. The opening will come 11 months after the Sweetbay closed and Foster took heat for not doing more to help the grocer lured to Tangerine Plaza in 2005 during former Mayor Rick Baker's administration.
Just like before, the Walmart deal required broader community effort, including a generous $300,000 donation from philanthropist Bill Edwards to finance site improvements and shore up the nonprofit landlord for the plaza. Edwards' gift will also provide seed money for a marketplace at the plaza where entrepreneurs can rent space and sell goods. Eight years after Tangerine Plaza opened, Walmart's announcement gives it a fresh chance to spur economic activity for Midtown.