Fred Meyer on Casino Road could have
EVERETT — Fred Meyer corporate was concerned enough by theft and safety concerns at its store at Evergreen Way and Casino Road that it floated an inquiry to the city about possibly closing it, a July city internal memo to the mayor mentions.
The gravity of this possibility is it would have stripped area residents of their only major grocery store, creating a food desert.
“Nothing was directly provided to us related to any particular store closing, but there have been broader conversations with the businesses in the area about the realities they are facing,” city spokeswoman Simone Tarver said by email.
The store is the center of one of two multi-block "no-sit/no-lie" buffer zones the city added in July. The other is in north Everett.
In the months prior, Fred Meyer management had met multiple times with the mayor’s office and police administration "to discuss their grave concerns for the area, as well as their corporation’s inquiry about a possible store closure due to increased theft and security concerns for their staff and customers," the memo from the city's community development director Julie Willie to Mayor Cassie Franklin reads. The Tribune obtained it through a records request.
The inquiry seemed to have come up during Fred Meyer's dialogues with the city, although nobody could tell the Tribune how formal or casual the inquiry was.
Fred Meyer, through a spokesperson, declined a reporter’s specific questions about crime at the Casino Road store or its future.
A Fred Meyer spokesperson gave a statement by email that “Fred Meyer is dedicated to our communities and wants to partner with local officials and communities to provide a safe shopping experience with fresh, affordable groceries and essentials.”
Many people with cars may only see a closure as an inconvenience. However, the hurdles would be much more significant for pedestrians and the mobility impaired.
It would create a food desert — low or no access to groceries within 1 mile for adults and half a mile for children.
Alvaro Guillen, director of Connect Casino Road, a
nonprofit organization focused on community development in the Casino Road area, noted many residents in the area don’t own a car, and the store is within walking distance for them.
“There are many children in the neighborhood,” Guillen said. “Families we work with in our Family Development Program ‘All Families are Ready’ have an average of three children and up to seven kids.”
Guillen said there is a smaller family-owned grocery store called Los Gavilanes with various products and a bakery, a butcher, produce, and healthy foods, but it wouldn’t be able to fill the gap if Fred Meyer was to close.
However, Los Gavilanes is one of the stores at the Casino Square shopping plaza currently at risk of displacement from a future Sound Transit light rail station.
If the Casino Road/Evergreen Way neighborhood loses Fred Meyer and Los Gavilanes, there are only corner stores and fast food in any direction until you reach Safeway, nearly a mile north of Casino Road and Evergreen Way.
“With the Walmart store on Highway 99 closing earlier this year, if another grocery store in the southern part of the city closed, that would create a food desert,” Tarver said. “We don’t want to see that happen; we want to ensure individuals and families have access to the essentials they need.”
In October 2022, the store's managers addressed City Council reporting that there is theft, open-air drug use and narcotics sales. Emergency response, public works clean-ups, police community outreach officers being deployed and neighborhood complaints had risen in the six months before the July 19 memo.
Everett Police Department spokeswoman Officer Ora Hamel said by email, “We have maintained a highly visible police presence in the buffer zones as well as other areas that have been heavily impacted by criminal activity.”
Hamel said the police will focus on education now and in the foreseeable future. Officers will inform individuals about the buffer zones and the social services available. However, depending on the situation, the warning and information can change into enforcement.
The ordinance requires law enforcement to issue a warning to individuals not adhering to the rules of the buffer zones.
“The department will adhere to these practices,” Hamel said.
Tarver said that service facility buffer zones aren’t the solution to all the challenges facing the community but are a valuable tool in providing additional options to help keep the community safe and ensure support for those struggling. The city is focusing on adding information to its website and communicating with neighbors and businesses within the buffer zones.
“Let’s not forget that this neighborhood has been historically neglected, underserved and underinvested; this is the result of decades of marginalization,” Guillen from Connect Casino Road said. “Systematic changes are needed within agencies to break barriers that our community faces to get access to economic opportunities and resources that would allow them to exit poverty.”
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