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Festival Foods to open urban-style grocery store in 800 East Washington development
The East Washington store will have a much different look than Festival Foods' typical suburban supermarkets.
Credit:Skogen's Festival Foods

Gebhardt Development announced Tuesday that it has secured an agreement with Skogen's Festival Foods to operate a grocery store in its proposed development on the 800 block of East Washington Avenue in downtown Madison.

The project had originally included a Metcalfe's Market -- including a rooftop farm to grow produce for the store -- but that deal fell apart in October. That left Gebhardt needing a new grocer to meet the terms of a $3.5 million purchase agreement it signed on July 18 with the city of Madison for the 4.5-acre site.

Gebhardt announced Tuesday that Skogen would operate a 57,000-square-foot store at the site -- its 19th store in Wisconsin.

Festival Food's roster of locations shows its other stores in the mold of a traditional big-box suburban supermarket, with large signs and parking lots. But project architect Chris Gosch, of Bark Design, says the East Washington store will have a much different look.

"This will be their flagship urban store, and they're committed to the design parameters we've set forth," Gosch says. "They're excited to have a project in an urban setting like this."

Nick Arlt, public-relations director for Skogen, says the family-owned company was founded in 1946 in Onalaska.

The company is excited to open an urban grocery store. "It's something we've looked at in other communities for a while," Arlt says. "We try to be a little different than other companies. This is just another great opportunity for us to see what we do well and make it fit in an urban environment."

Arlt says the company has increasingly focused on organic, natural foods. "We've been greatly expanding our natural and organic products. That's more and more of a focus, more of a request from customers. We try to source local product wherever we can."

Joe Lusson, of the Tenney-Lapham Neighborhood Association, says he wants to learn more details about the project but is happy with this development.

"I'm very excited that they've got a grocer so the project can move forward," he says. "They've put a ton of work into it and have been very open to input from the neighborhood.

"I don't know this grocer, but a full-service grocer is what the neighborhood has been eager for," Lusson adds. "Hopefully it will be a good fit."

Besides the grocery store, the development, on the north side of the street, is expected to include offices, stores, a mix of housing and live/work environments, and structured parking.

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