Plans have been announced for two new grocery stores in Austin and North Lawndale. The effort comes from two local entrepreneurs who see the value in providing healthy food in areas considered food deserts up as recent as the last decade, the two stores will potentially be located at an old Salvation Army Building located at 5713 W Chicago Avenue in Austin developed by Liz Abunaw and 628 S Pulaski Road in North Lawndale developed by Albert Peterson.
Food deserts are defined as areas where a majority of the population doesn’t have access to healthy food. Chicago further defines it as an area where residents live over a mile from a 10,000-square-foot grocery store, with 16 of the city’s 77 neighborhoods being considered such in 2017. Chicago itself ranks nationally towards the top having over 400,000 residents in food deserts, of which 20 percent are minors, and all are more prone to developing chronic illnesses, making access to food a dominant issue in most major metropolitan areas.
The first store is planning to take over a closed Salvation Army store with a parking lot located on the corner of W Chicago Avenue and N Waller Avenue with the design work being led by Latent Design. Led by Abunaw who started hosting pop-up markets four years ago in Austin and is called ‘Forty Acres Fresh Market’, under which she delivers fresh produce across the city currently. The transformation of the 1952 built 12,000-square-foot building has neighbors excited and Abunaw hopes the proximity to Oak Park will draw a diverse crowd.
The second store is taking over a vacant one story masonry building near the intersection of S Pulaski Road and W 5th Avenue, Peterson will open his new store within the 1972 built 6,000 square-foot structure. Dubbed ‘North Lawndale Meat & Fresh Produce Market’, the store will source a majority of its meat and seafood from Black farmers and businesses including from farmers in Kankakee according to WTTW. The store will deliver a Trader Joe’s-like experience with outreach to the elderly to assure they are taken care of as well.
Both stores will bring a large impact to their respective areas and help end food shortage areas in lower-income neighborhoods that are often overlooked and have seen the departure of major chains. Both of the projects are located within Invest South/West zones that will continue to grow, Forty Acres Fresh Market will begin construction on the store later this year with North Lawndale Meat & Fresh Produce targeting a spring opening.