Mariano’s Fresh Markets announced it will build a new grocery store on the northeast corner of 87th Street and South Lake Shore Drive on the former U.S. Steel Works factory site — not far from a parcel in the same development being pitched as a future home of a Barack Obama presidential library.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn announced the news Wednesday that the grocery store will open in early 2016.
Dan McCaffery, the site developer and presidential-library site proponent, said Wednesday the Mariano’s grocery store will be 70,000 square feet and will immediately serve the surrounding residential area that desperately needs a grocery store, even though the U.S. Steel property is empty.
“It’s on a prime corner,” he said of the Mariano’s site. “It’s a gorgeous location … and a wonderful first anchor of the site.”
One site proposed for the Obama library is roughly one-third to one-half of a mile from the Mariano’s location.
McCaffery said he will be announcing more retail as well as residential development on the U.S. Steel site within the next six months, but he declined to elaborate.
“This is a property that in the past provided many hardworking families a sense of pride and gave them the resources they needed to call this area home,” McCaffery said.
“We’re counting on this being the start (of the development) and (these announcements) continuing with some regularity,” he said.
Plans for the so-called Lakeside development, a $4 billion project on nearly 600 acres between 79th and 91st streets on Lake Michigan, call for 13,575 residential units and as much as 17.5 million square feet of retail space, plus parks and a marina.
Last week, Mariano’s Fresh Markets announced it will build five new grocery stores in “food deserts” — neighborhoods with no easy access to affordable, fresh food — with the help of $5 million in Build Illinois bond proceeds committed by Gov. Quinn.
The U.S. Steel site is one of the “food desert” sites. There are no other full-fledged grocery stores within 4.5 miles.
Mariano’s CEO and President Bob Mariano said in a statement, “Currently, there are no major grocers located near Lakeside. Many of them have closed up shop years ago, leaving families with only corner stores and discount grocers that do not have fresh healthy products.”
The state bond funds will go toward capital construction in order to free up more money for job training.
It’s the first time Build Illinois bonds will be used to boost healthy food choices in low-income areas, said David Roeder, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
One of the other five sites will be at 39th and King Drive in the Bronzeville community, but Marino would not identify the other three sites — two slated to be in the city and one in the suburbs. Mariano’s now operates 25 stores throughout the Chicago region, with plans to have 39 stores by year-end 2016 and, ultimately, 50 throughout the region.
Mariano said last week that Mariano’s, a division of Milwaukee-based Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc., must provide intense job training in underserved communities, including working with new hires on basics such as timeliness, proper attire, work preparation and communicating well with customers.
“In many cases, we’re going into places where people haven’t had jobs or haven’t had jobs in many years,” Mariano said. “We want to spend time on job training and job-preparation skills so that the employees and the store can succeed.”
Mariano aims to hire local residents for the food-desert stores. The company does so at existing stores because most people want to work two to five miles from their homes, Mariano said.
Each Mariano’s store employs about 415 people.
Mariano’s supermarkets emphasize food stations and fresh, prepared and ready-to-prepare foods — an approach that retail experts say work well in underserved neighborhoods.
The latest research by food-desert researcher and consultant Mari Gallagher shows that an influx of supermarkets has reduced Chicago’s food-desert population by 55 percent, to 288,000, from her initial report of 2006.
Gallagher said last week that she is heartened by Mariano’s plans, especially since successful grocery stores often attract other stores into the neglected areas.
Both Mariano’s and Chicago Lakeside Development also are pledging to work with local non-profits and community organizations in the area.
Emanuel said in a statement:
“Three years ago, Mariano’s committed to opening stores across the city of Chicago, and I’m happy to announce that residents of South Chicago will soon benefit from that promise. … Today is about a new neighborhood rising, and communities, the City and the private sector coming together to create new jobs and new opportunities for tomorrow.”