Community members say the long-awaited market will improve quality of life as well as create more than 100 jobs.
Any Temple student living immediately off campus can attest to the inconvenience and costliness of the neighborhoods’ lack of grocery stores. But for local residents, many of whom are senior citizens or rely exclusively on public transportation, the closing of the area’s last grocer several years ago has been even more burdensome.
State legislators, the Mayor’s Office and urban development firm Progress Investment Association anticipate that this will soon change with the opening of a Fresh Grocer store in December at the Progress Plaza Shopping Center on North Broad Street between Jefferson and Oxford streets.
Wendell Whitlock, chairman of for-profit PIA, which manages the Plaza, welcomed an audience comprised both of community members and state and local politicians to a ceremony Oct. 27 marking the building’s near-completion. Among the speakers were Fresh Grocer President Pat Burns, Donald Brown of The Reinvestment Fund, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Dwight Evans, D-203rd, Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, D-181st and City Councilman Darrell Clarke, D-5th.
Mayor Nutter sent a staff member on his behalf, and while Sen. Shirley Kitchen, D-3rd, was also absent, Whitlock acknowledged her as an instrumental player in acquiring funding for the project. Most often credited was the late Rev. Leon Sullivan, a community organizer and civil rights activist who oversaw the construction of the Progress Plaza in 1968.
Though some have criticized the project’s many delays, organizers announced the Fresh Grocer will be opening Dec. 11.
Not only will the store offer fresh foods accessible to the community, it will also create 225 new jobs in the neighborhood.
“It’s so important for this neighborhood to have a grocery store, especially for all the seniors,” said Pauline Hill, a nearby resident who plans to shop at the store. “It’ll be a lot more convenient.”
Her husband, Sam Hill, noted that the jobs created by the store are also sorely needed.
“I know this is going to help the neighborhood,” Beverly Dowdy, another area resident, said. “People need a grocery store like this nearby … especially for all the fresh foods.”
She added that its location will help to serve the low-income population of the surrounding area, making it easier for people without cars to buy in bulk.
“I think about seniors who have to spread their shopping over two or three days because they need to take a city bus and don’t have kids around to help them shop,” Dowdy said. “This will help to make sure their needs are met.”
Donald Hoegg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.