Some south-siders still haven’t accepted losing their neighborhood’s only grocery store, and they’re already criticizing a plan to convert the former Pick ‘n Save into Rock County government offices.
But those with realistic expectations see benefits in the plan. It would revitalize this vacant space by bringing in an estimated 350 county employees, all of whom become potential customers for nearby retailers and restaurants.
The plan also would take care of the county’s needs. County officials have been looking for a new home for the human services department, which operates out of an outdated building near the sheriff’s office complex.
Even after $17 million in remodeling expenses, the Pick ‘n Save site would cost the county $13 million less than the county expected to spend for a new human services home.
The county’s job center would move into the building, too, putting both the job center and human services under the same roof. That would benefit clients who now must travel to different parts of town to visit the two agencies.
The south side location would also be more convenient for Beloit residents who need services not offered at the human services office in the Eclipse Center.
And the location is near people who depend on government assistance.
Remember, the General Motors plant closing in 2009 hit the south side particularly hard. The area still hasn’t fully recovered, as the Pick ‘n Save closing in 2017 demonstrated. Many south-siders continue to use the job center, and they’re also enrolled in state programs, such as FoodShare and BadgerCare, which human services helps administer.
Much of the disappointment regarding the county’s offer to buy the Pick ‘n Save site for $4.4 million stems from ignorance.
Since Pick ‘n Save closed, some residents have been demanding a new grocery store fill the space. That would have been ideal, we agree.
Unfortunately, the economics didn’t allow it. The city reached out to grocers and asked them if they would be interested in acquiring the site. They weren’t.
The city cannot compel a business to move into a particular location. The city can offer enticements, but even in these cases the economics must make sense for businesses. Tax breaks help, but they’re no substitute for a viable business plan.
Pick ‘n Save closed for financial reasons, likely related to dwindling foot traffic. In truth, the city has little leverage dictating terms to prospective south-side developers. Most retailers have been gravitating to the north side near the Interstate.
If the former General Motors site can be successfully redeveloped, the south side’s prospects might begin to change. But until then, the south side should embrace anything that resembles progress.
Far from being a bad deal, the county’s plan to redevelop the former Pick ‘n Save is arguably the best possible outcome for the south side.
Instead of getting a warehouse or a similar facility with relatively few employees, the county is offering to infuse this site with 350 decently paid county employees. They’re likely to spend at nearby restaurants, shops and gas stations.
This is good news for the south side, and its residents should be grateful.