The Food Retail Expansion to Support Health Program, or FRESH, was created in 2008 after a citywide study called Going to Market identified acute and chronic health problems stemming from a lack of availability of nutritious foods in many underserved, poor neighborhoods in NYC. (Going to Market, 2008)
The program offers multiple zoning incentives and tax benefits to mixed-use developments in residential, commercial, and light manufacturing districts that include a FRESH grocery store as part of their development plan. The program notes that many grocery stores operate with several zoning restraints that can be prohibitive to profitable business operations, such as higher parking requirements and floor area restrictions. As such, the program offers floor area incentives, reduced parking requirements, and allows larger stores to locate as-of-right in light manufacturing zones. (nyc.gov, 2009)
The program also includes several types of tax benefits, such as exemption from sales tax on the materials used to construct, renovate, or equip facilities and a reduction in mortgage taxes. (edc.nyc, 2019)
By creating these incentives, the program thus eases the financial burdens of many store owners, who can then provide more quality fresh foods like meat and produce that would otherwise be considered too risky/perishable. Under the program, the requirements for a FRESH food store include the following stipulations:
· At least 6,000 square feet must be used for things like dairy, meats, fish, poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, and other general grocery products
· At least 30% of the above area must be for the sale of perishable goods like fresh produce, dairy, meat, and fish (nyc.gov)
· A percentage of the ground floor space must include windows in order to contribute to a more active streetscape
A mixed-use development that adheres to these guidelines is allowed one additional square foot of residential floor area for every square foot provided for a FRESH food store, up to a maximum of 20,000 square feet. Additionally, stores in C1-C6 districts with less than 40,000 square feet of floor area do not have to provide parking. As of 2019, 22 FRESH store projects have been approved, and 18 have been completed.