CLEVELAND -- Heinen's, a player in the greater Cleveland grocery game since 1929, will open a store downtown as an anchor in the renovated Ameritrust complex.
Co-owner Tom Heinen said being a native Clevelander makes the choice to be part of downtown's revival a personal one for him and his brother, Jeff.
They were looking for the right time, place and deal to open their 18th store in Northeast Ohio. Until now, they've all been at suburban locations.
"Living all our lives here, and watching the ups and downs of the city ... to see the revitalization of Cleveland and be part of it, we just think it's exciting," he said.
The Heinen's leadership team came downtown Friday to check out the site.
The store will be located in the first two floors of the Ameritrust building's rotunda and in the neighboring Swetland building at 1010 Euclid Ave.
Heinen's is betting downtown's population will continue to grow.
"It's clearly higher risk ... it could be higher reward," he said.
The project's co-developer, Fred Geis, has lived downtown nine years.
"It's a major coup. This morning, I was getting text messages from all my neighbors saying, 'Now we're staying in the city,' " he said.
There are about 12,000 residents now.
Downtown Cleveland Alliance CEO Joe Marinucci says other projects being built will expand that to 14,000 in the next 18 months with, hopefully, more to follow.
He predicts the store will be another factor contributing to downtown's growth.
"It's a great marketing opportunity for us, but, more importantly, a great piece of our puzzle in terms of expanding downtown Cleveland and keeping the momentum going, " he said.
The new store will be smaller than Heinen's other stores here, about 33,000 square feet.
Heinen said it will likely stock smaller sizes and fewer items.
It will emphasize prepared foods and fresh produce and prepared foods for on-the-go workers.
One big question concerns parking. The project has a garage with 1,500 parking spaces. Developers say there will be valet parking and Heinen's will have its familiar drive-up service.
Plans are for the store and the rest of a mixed-use complex at and around the old Ameritrust site to open next fall.
Co-developer Greg Geis predicts there will be an announcement about other tenants within a couple weeks, saying negotiations are "rounding third and heading for home."
The project is mixed use with housing, retail, a hotel and a new county headquarters,
Downtown residents have had to shop at a smaller Constantino's food store, the West Side Market and one of two Dave's stores on either side of downtown.
Other larger grocery stores have previously opened and failed.
It was a chicken-and-egg dilemma. There weren't enough residents to support a bigger store and the lack of a bigger store was a deterrent to more people moving downtown.
At Friday's Public Square farmers' market, shoppers cheered the news about Heinen's arrival.
Kathy Calabrese said, "I think it's great. ... It's nice to have some place where I can go to get fresh vegetables other than fast food."
Nancy Kelly said, "It'll just give more choices and more people will want to live here because they have more choices, and they can grow with the city."
Historic tax credits will play a part in the store's financing.
Heinen's and Geis are working toward a long-term lease.