After years of effort, Buff Chace’s Cornish Associates has succeeding in attracting a grocery store — one of the top-two needs regularly cited by residents — to downtown Providence.
Plans call for Gourmet Heaven, which operates in two locations in New Haven, Connecticut, with a combination of deli, grocery, and prepared food, to occupy a vacant 2500-square-foot space at Weybosset and Union streets, opening somewhere between late November and the start of 2009. The location was formerly a clothing shop.
“We’re very excited about it,” says Chace, who likens the Gourmet Heaven concept to the Korean green-grocers common in New York City.
The effort was made possible through a collaboration with the Rhode Island School of Design, Chace says, that enabled Cornish to master-lease the property and then to sublease it to the Korean family that operates Gourmet Heaven. The Downcity Partnership is also contributing to the project. Efforts to improve the space have started.
Chace says the market will have some seating and extended hours, and that it might be open around the clock in the future. It will help to fill a long-sought need, he says, since a grocery and parking are the top wants regularly identified by downtown residents.
Conversations with Trader Joe’s and other grocers have proved fruitless over the years, Chace says, mostly because of concerns about a lack of parking. Yet Gourmet Heaven proved a good fit, in part since a niece of the couple that operates it went to RISD and now works for Samsung in Seoul. “I think RISD is well-known in Korea,” Chace says. “I think it was part of their decision.”
Chace says Cornish continues to seek a neighborhood restaurant for the former Obama office on Westminster Street. The company’s other retail space is otherwise utilized, he says, and its downtown residential properties are about 95 percent occupied.
In related news, Chace says he is trying to identify the potential two-to-three best locations for a downtown arthouse cinema, possibly to be operated by Sundance or another independent, near PPAC or Trinity Rep. Plans for a similar effort fell apart about nine years ago.
While the concept is far from reality, Chace says, it would help fill a need for a greater number and variety of downtown activities.
This was first published on August 18 at thephoenix.com/notfornothing.