The Department of City Planning is proposing to update and expand the FRESH food stores program, which supports convenient, accessible grocery stores in underserved neighborhoods. The update would bring the FRESH program to more communities across the city, among other changes to ensure FRESH stores are evenly distributed and financially viable.
The Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program (FRESH) was created in 2009 in response to a citywide study, Going to Market. This study highlighted the lack of neighborhood grocery stores providing fresh food options in several New York City communities. Its goal is to encourage stores in these communities that provide a full range of grocery products including fresh meat, fruit and vegetables.
The program gives property owners the right to construct slightly larger buildings in mixed residential and commercial districts if they include a FRESH supermarket.
Expand FRESH to more communities
FRESH currently applies to:
With this update, the FRESH program will be expanded to:
The expansion areas are based on City Planning’s Supermarket Needs Index, which shows neighborhoods that are still underserved by high-quality grocery stores.
Note: This proposal is separate from the FRESH supermarkets tax benefits managed by the Economic Development Corporation. That tax benefits program would not expand to the areas indicated above. Read more about FRESH tax benefits here.
Some communities have seen clustering of FRESH supermarket applications, which may exceed the intent of FRESH to fill gaps in the local grocery environment. This may make it difficult for stores to prosper. The FRESH update would add specific criteria an applicant must follow to create a new FRESH store near an existing location. These new criteria would limit the potential for oversaturation.
Currently, FRESH food stores are required to have windows on half of any wall that faces the street. This requirement, however, has proven to be impractical and difficult for existing buildings that are trying to renovate to be a FRESH supermarket.
Therefore, for renovations to an existing building to construct a FRESH supermarket, building owners will no longer have to replace existing walls with windows – removing a potentially expensive step in the process.
Since the FRESH update proposes to expand the program into more lower density residential zoning districts, it is important to propose new rules that are appropriate for the characteristics of these neighborhoods.
The FRESH update would provide a waiver from required parking for up to 10,000 square feet of FRESH retail area in lower density residential districts.
Further details of FRESH updates are to be determined and are subject to change.
A 2018 review of the FRESH program by City Planning showed that, while FRESH supermarkets have been built or proposed, residents in many neighborhoods are still having a hard time finding fresh food near their homes. By increasing FRESH stores in New York City communities and ensuring that FRESH stores are not clustered only in parts of a neighborhood, this proposal can help increase consumer choice and demand, while keeping FRESH stores financially viable.
The FRESH update entered public review on May 19, 2021.
For more information or to ask questions, please contact: FRESH2_DL@planning.nyc.gov.