Violeta Guerrero grew up going to Tejeda’s Market in the Glendale neighborhood.
It was a place where her family members of Mexican and Brazilian heritage could find Mexican sweet bread and meat cuts that are not readily available in regular grocery stores in Salt Lake City but are staples in their diets.
Now, a two-acre housing development is likely to replace the west-side grocery store. The Glendale Townhomes project is expected to bring 57 two-bedroom rental units fronting Navajo Street and Glendale Drive. The modern buildings would feature facades of brick, wood siding, glass and stucco.
Axis Architects, the designer and developer, plans to include a community garden, playground and pickleball courts that would be open to the surrounding community.
Though some concerns are being addressed, the project is not sitting well with some residents.
Glendale ranks among the Salt Lake City neighborhoods experiencing high volumes of food insecurity — and losing a supermarket won’t help.
“This development would be getting rid of the current grocery store that the community relies on for basic needs,” Guerrero, a member of the Rose Park Brown Berets, said. “It just forces the community to have to travel even farther away to meet these needs.”
The city is sympathetic to that sentiment, said Eric Daems, a senior planner with the city’s Planning Division. He notes that the project includes a community garden, one of the strategies recommended by the city’s Resident Food Equity Advisors’ report to improve access to healthy foods.
Plus, the owner of Tejeda’s Market decided to close the doors and sell the property, “which is his right as a business and property owner.”
“They put it on the market, and we bought it,” said Pierre Langue, design principal at Axis Architects. “We have nothing to do with its closure.”
Langue said that the town homes respond to a need for more residences to help support area businesses and prevent further shop closures.
“Currently, there are not enough residents to support a grocery store,” he said. “This is demonstrated by the closure of the store for lack of business.”
Gentrification also worries Guerrero, who points out that units will be rented at market rates, so Glendale residents may not be able to afford them.
“They said that they imagine supporting Pilates or photography studios, so it just seems pretty blatant that this isn’t for the community,” Guerrero said. “It does not represent the community the way that the market does.”
These were not arguments that the city’s planning commission had to take into account to give the nod to the project.
The area of Tejeda’s Market is zoned for community business. The commission determined that the development meets objectives for housing, mobility and master plan implementation and approved it.
Glendale resident Kristen Prosser attended the commission’s virtual meeting and was left with a sour taste. She was unclear where she could leave public comments and concerned that future neighborhood changes would take place without residents’ input.
Prosser also worries about what high-density housing will bring to the neighborhood — traffic, for starters.
Daems, the city planner, said that the town homes would be at a much lower density than could be built on the property if it were configured differently and insisted that the city had considered what it meant to introduce a new planned community in Glendale.
“All city departments, including transportation, reviewed the proposal,” he said, “and found it to meet applicable standards.”
Prosser, who has lived in Glendale for two years, also wonders how the community’s character is going to change. When she walks around her neighborhood, she sees bungalows.
“They’re putting a big, modern building, and they’re saying that it looks just like the community,” she said. “It doesn’t look just like our community.”
Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.