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Bronzeville Gets a Fresh Start to Quality Foods

By: Rashanah Baldwin
Published: January 25, 2016

Wasn’t long ago that Bronzeville residents looking for a full-service grocery store had to leave the neighborhood to find one. The opening of a Walmart at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in 2014 was a first step in correcting that problem. Now, the picture’s getting even brighter with the construction of a Mariano’s Fresh Market on a long-vacant lot at the northeast corner of 39th Street and King Drive. The 74,000-square-foot store is scheduled to open this summer.

In addition to providing fresh vegetables, fruit, top-of-the-line meats, seafood, baked goods and cooking classes and demonstrations, the store is expected to kick-start economic development along King Drive and generate other new retail opportunities.

The time is here

“It was time for a full service grocer to come to the community,” said Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, a Bronzeville resident and executive director of Quad Communities Development Corporation (QCDC). “Many residents drive miles away to the Mariano’s on Clark, or the Jewel or Trader Joe’s on Roosevelt.”

The new grocery store was spear-headed by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), a nonprofit developer that more than two years ago began negotiating with the Chicago Housing Authority and the City of Chicago to secure the land, formerly occupied by the Ida B. Wells public housing project, which was razed nearly a decade ago. CNI then found development and equity partners in Wendy Shapiro, Dean Kelley and Safeway Construction. It also attracted $26 million in financing, from First Midwest Bank, LISC Chicago, and IFF. CNI’s development team includes Johnson and Lee Architects and Powers & Sons-Milhouse general contractors.

The store is expected to provide 150 construction jobs and, after completion, 400 new retail jobs, with a strong emphasis on hiring local residents and minorities. Trinal Inc., a diversity and inclusion consulting company, is making sure there is room for entrepreneurs, small business owners and vendors to have their products in the store as well.

QCDC, through its partnership with the 741 Collaborative, hopes to work with the development team on job placement initiatives by identifying and referring qualified candidates. The Collaborative is a partnership of Chicago nonprofit agencies that puts employers in touch with local, qualified job candidates who are prepared and ready for careers in a diverse range of industries.

Over the years, LISC has provided a range of financing for a variety of real estate developments, but this is the first grocery store in recent years. Together with the IFF, LISC provided a $3 million loan for project construction.

“LISC Chicago invests strategically throughout the metro area to foster stronger and healthier neighborhoods. We are proud to be a part of the project and know the new Bronzeville Mariano’s will be much used by the community,” said Barbara Beck, Director of Financial Services and Underwriting for LISC Chicago.

A win for Bronzeville

This $26-million dollar, job-producing development will fulfill an integral part of the Quality-of-Life plan that QCDC, along with community stakeholders, created 10 years ago which called for access to quality fresh food in the neighborhood.

The store developers, said Johnson-Gabriel, listened to the community and made sure to include the rich history of Bronzeville by incorporating artistic components into the architecture. A wall of art in the store will honor famous musicians, activists and artists.

While there is a shortage of commercial space in the neighborhood, there is optimism that this national grocer will spur the development of new retail space. It is uncertain what businesses will be attracted to the immediate area, but Johnson-Gabriel hopes to eventually see an apparel store, florist, children’s store, and perhaps an electronics store. Even services like shoe repair and eyewear would be a welcomed addition to the corridor.  

Posted in Areas of Work, Neighborhoods

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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