5 things to know about the grocery store planned for Saskatoon's downtown

Vancouver-based developer Arbutus Properties has approached the City of Saskatoon with a proposal to open a full-service grocery store with a restaurant and take-out at the Midtown Plaza. Arbutus officials made their case to the city's Standing Policy Committee on Transportation on Monday. Here are five key details they revealed.

It's a throwback to the grocery store of yesteryear.

"For those of you — us — with a little more grey hair, I think we can probably remember a time when neighbourhood grocery stores were pretty commonplace in our city," Arbutus director of planning Murray Totland told the committee.

"In fact, I grew up in the Exhibition area. We had one in our neighbourhood and I can remember similar stores being in Avalon and Churchill, for instance. So these were smaller stores. They were really intended to serve the neighbourhood and the surrounding community. And in many ways, I think some of us would think that these were really a superior shopping experience that we might find today with the larger format big-box retail."

He said Pitchfork is intended to return to that era, with a smaller format store with a more comfortable and more engaging shopping experience with a full grocery offering and competitive pricing to larger stores.

But what if you're hungry right now?

The twist, Totland said, is that Pitchfork also offers an in-store restaurant, take-out offerings, online shopping, curbside pickup and free delivery to meet the needs of today's busy consumer.

"And the added touch to that is we've got some of the city's best chefs on staff that prepare the meals, both the restaurant menu and the and the prepared meals," Totland said.

"So not only great taste and great quality, we incorporate local products in everything we do in the store. So it's a really unique business model. We think it's one that will not only be successful downtown, but we think it's going to be successful in potentially many other neighbourhoods in the city.

Why does the company want intersection improvements?

Totland estimates that 80 per cent of their customers will drive to the store and as it stands, it's difficult to make left turns from Auditorium Avenue onto Idylwyld Drive or vice versa. He also doesn't think the existing pedestrian signal provides the greatest level of access or safety at that intersection.

"The fact that it's being recommended for improvement under Imagine Idylwyld suggests that's a needed improvement at that intersection. So really, it's critical to our success just to get people in and out of our store. And it's probably going to relieve a lot of frustration that drivers today experience at that intersection," he said.

The work is expected to cost $220,000 and the city plans to set a threshold for the store's construction before doing it.

The store will also validate shoppers' mall parking and likely deliver groceries to people parked underground.

Will there be abandoned grocery carts downtown?

Totland said the cost of grocery carts is "shocking" so the company doesn't want them to disappear.

"We're going to use technology to our advantage here. There are a number of systems on the market where essentially you establish an electronic perimeter around your store and the cart wheels will actually lock up if you try and go past that perimeter, so it'll be pretty useless to use beyond our parking area.

When will it open?

Totland said that in an ideal world, the store would open by the end of the year. However, he said it's a difficult construction and supply environment right now, so an early 2023 opening is more realistic.