The Sprouts grocery store on Highway 31 in Vestavia Hills is now closed, just two years after it opened, and four years after the city paid a large cash incentive to help land the project.
Vestavia Hills worked to recruit Sprouts back in 2014. That's when they approved a $1.4 million cash, up front incentive to the developer to make the project happen.
Now, with Sprouts closed, some people question the expense. But, the city maintains it was worth the money.
For two years, Sprouts on Highway 31 sold its organic produce to customers like Mary Alice Thurman.
She went weekly.
“Very sad that they are leaving,” she told us. “I thought they had very good prices and it was a nice clean store.”
Thurman was surprised to learn about the incentives the city paid for the project.
“That’s a lot of money as an incentive to bring any store to Vestavia as far as I’m concerned, but I guess that’s the way we get people to come in,” said Thurman.
City Manager Jeff Downes told us the site had topographical issues and it was hard to recruit developers.
“It was a site that had no activity on it and had been dark for many years, generating no tax revenue and being an eye sore for the corridor,” said Downes.
So, he explains to jumpstart Highway 31 growth, the city prioritized the project, paying the $1.4 million cash upfront payment. In addition to Sprouts, an adjacent strip including retail and restautants was part of the deal. Chipotle and Supercuts are among the businesses there now.
To date, $1.1 million in taxes and fees have been collected.
“After two years, we haven’t had 100% return on the investment, but within another 2 or 3 years, we should break even and then after that, pay dividends to us,” Downes said. “Had we not taken the risk, we would not even had the opportunity to gain after a number of years.”
Downes maintains the plan worked and points to growth along the Highway 31 corridor.
The other two Birmingham area Sprouts locations are off Highway 150 in Hoover and on HW 280 in Birmingham. Both of those cities told ABC 33/40 there were no incentives offered for those store openings.
As to why Sprouts closed its Vestavia Hills location, spokesperson Kalia Pang told ABC 33/40, ““Closing a store is always a difficult decision; however, as Sprouts expands across the country, we have evolved how we select store locations to ensure we are operating consistently. This can shape our thinking about an existing store location, and while it is infrequent, we sometimes find a trade area can be serviced more efficiently by simply consolidating the business to nearby locations.”