The Des Moines City Council last month chose a Knapp Properties Inc. and Hy-Vee Inc. plan to construct a grocery store, apartments and a parking garage to on a city-owned parking lot at Fourth Street and Court Avenue.
The proposed Hy-Vee will be the first grocery store in the heart of downtown and could provide competition for the Gateway Market on Woodland Avenue, but Paul Rottenberg, president of Orchestrate Hospitality and owner of Gateway Market, doesn't seem to be worried.
"My initial reaction was that it was a good proposal," Rottenberg said. "I think Hy-Vee is the only operation that can do the downtown grocery store in the way people who live downtown want."
Gateway Market opened in 2007, the first of its kind to offer Des Moines residents a high-end selection of specialty groceries and natural food options. It also features a cafe and catering services.
Specific plans for the proposed downtown Hy-Vee haven't been made public, but Rottenberg said it will likely offer residents a more conventional shopping experience.
"Many of our customers are already conventional grocery store customers as well," Rottenberg said. "They use stores like Hy-Vee for certain staples and use us for others. The two are very different in terms of selection and shopping experience."
Meanwhile, Gateway has continued to evolve in the face of growing competition, placing a greater focus on its prepared foods, bakery and catering operations.
"That's where we think we're very strong," Rottenberg said. "We've got a great culinary team. While we still focus on our grocery operations, we understand the convenience factor (for customers), so we do what we need to differentiate ourselves from the competition."