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Trader Joe's drops plan for store, cites objections over possible resident displacement

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Trader Joe's grocery-store chain has dropped a plan to open a new store in the heart of the city's historically African-American neighbourhood after activists said the development would price black residents out of the area.

The grocer, whose stores are found in urban neighbourhoods across the nation, said Monday it wouldn't press its plan, given community resistance, The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1n7Jyqb ) reported.

"We open a limited number of stores each year, in communities across the country," it said in a statement. "We run neighbourhood stores, and our approach is simple: If a neighbourhood does not want a Trader Joe's, we understand, and we won't open the store in question."

The Portland Development Commission had offered a steep discount to the grocer on a parcel of nearly two acres that was appraised at up to $2.9 million: a purchase price of slightly more than $500,000. The lot is at Northeast Alberta Street and Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and has been vacant for years.

Critics said the development would displace residents and perpetuate income inequality in one of the most rapidly gentrifying ZIP codes in the nation.

The Portland African American Leadership Forum said the development commission had in the past made promises about preventing projects from displacing community members but hadn't fulfilled them.

It sent the city a letter saying it would "remain opposed to any development in N/NE Portland that does not primarily benefit the Black community." It said the grocery-store development would "increase the desirability of the neighbourhood," for "non-oppressed populations."

Mayor Charlie Hales and the urban renewal agency's executive director, Patrick Quinton, signed a letter in January that described what they said was the commission's contributions "to the destructive impact of gentrification and displacement on the African American community."

Trader Joe's is based in Monrovia, Calif. Its store would have been the anchor of a two-building development that included space for four to 10 shops and 100 parking spaces. A company owned by African-Americans in Portland had been slated to build it.

Hales said Monday it was too soon to determine what might happen to the vacant lot.

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Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com

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