Where’s the Progress?

Victoria Hamilton can eat 10 times a week with her meal plan, but she said it isn’t as good as it sounds. The freshman fine arts major is upset she can’t shop for food around

Victoria Hamilton can eat 10 times a week with her meal plan, but she said it isn’t as good as it sounds.

The freshman fine arts major is upset she can’t shop for food around Temple like she could at home. Without the convenience of grocery stores near Main Campus, she has to rely on her meal plan to eat during the week.

Temple students who want to purchase groceries don’t have it any easier than anyone else from the neighborhood. Longtime North Philadelphia residents are left with bodegas or McDonald’s.

The construction of the Fresh Grocer at Progress Plaza, located at 1501 N. Broad St., has been plagued by multiple delays.

“I was going to [Johnson and Hardwick cafeteria] all the time for waffles,” Hamilton said. “I loved those things, and now they just make me sick.

“I’m usually at my boyfriend’s on the weekends. I was able to cook shrimp scampi there. How could I get what I needed for that back at Temple?”

For nearly a year, a poster with computer-graphic renderings of a redeveloped Progress Plaza has been on display, promoting the arrival of the Fresh Grocer, a 24-hour supermarket.

Construction of the supermarket is part of a $16 million project for the historic plaza, the nation’s first African-American owned shopping center.

“Construction should begin within the next 30 to 60 days,” said Benjamin Gilbert, supervisor of Plaza Management Office.

Two of the plaza’s three wings were completed by October 2008, but the supermarket centerpiece projected to be completed by early 2009 suffered minor setbacks.

Gilbert said normal construction delays, necessary city zoning approvals and the weather delayed work on the other wing, pushing the completion date of the supermarket back.

Once construction begins on the unfinished wing, the development of the Fresh Grocer is expected to take an additional six months for it to be built.

The Fresh Grocer will be built on the lot along Oxford Street, where there is currently one business still open.

The revitalization of Progress Plaza is sponsored by a three-way partnership that puts urban concerns first.

The Fresh Food Financing Initiative, which helps fund the development of grocery stores in deprived urban areas, will commit resources to the development of the Fresh Grocer in North Philadelphia. The supermarket has six locations in the surrounding areas.

The Fresh Grocer chain is not foreign to Philadelphia but will be new to this part of the city. The closest location at 40th and Walnut streets is accessible by subway routes.

After joining with the Food Trust, a private group working to reform eating habits in urban areas, and the Reinvestment Fund, plans were made to restructure the plaza.

There are also other businesses new to the plaza that may eventually move in but are still negotiating contracts with the shopping center’s management.

Delay in construction at Progress Plaza is noticeable. Rooms in the unfinished wing have piles of Sheetrock stacked and ready to be installed.

Nelson’s Auto Tags is the only business left in the soon-to-be-demolished building.

Fred Brown, an employee at Nelson’s Auto Tags, said the store will move into a newly renovated building as soon as possible. Due to renovations happening inside the building, the business has been forced to wait.

Brown said he expects to reopen by May.

The store has been a part of Progress Plaza since 2004 but had moved to its current location more than a year ago. Though he was forced to close until renovations are completed, Brown doesn’t seem to mind.

He said: “It’s definitely going to be good for business.”

Greg Adomaitis can be reached at greg.adomaitis@temple.edu.

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