City-owned Sunfresh grocery store can’t pay its bills

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After a year in operation, Kansas City council members learned Wednesday that the grocery store the city created at 31st Street and Prospect Avenue isn't making enough money to pay its bills.

The finance committee unanimously approved a $345,000 subsidy Wednesday for the Sunfresh grocery in the Linwood Shopping Center.

Nearly $15 million of both public and private money has already been invested into revitalizing the shopping center.

And the city doesn't want the grocery store to start scaling back what it offers because sales have not met expectations.

The neighborhood and housing services director says security at the store has become a much bigger expense than anticipated, especially after a shooting at the store last September.

The store hasn't been able to pay its share of maintenance costs at the shopping center for services like exterior lighting, landscaping and keeping the property clean.

"We’ve been talking to the police department and encouraging them to make more stops up there and to set in the parking lot occasionally, as opposed to maybe other places," said John Wood, Kansas City's director of neighborhood and housing services. "We are working with a different security firm. They have been much more visible."

Wood also is discussing setting up an urban ambassador program at the shopping center. It would be similar to what the Downtown Council has with its yellow-jacketed crew cleaning the streets and assisting visitors.

Wood admits that it's been hard to predict how much economic support the shopping center would receive in a neighborhood where people have moved away and there's not much other money being invested.

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