By Katherine Newman, The Chicago Citizen
For over 40 years, Woodlawn residents have lived without their own full-service grocery but a recent grand opening ceremony for the newly constructed Jewel-Osco at the corner of 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue brought an end to that inequity.
With the opening of this new 48,000 square foot grocery store, residents now not only have neighborhood access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats but there have also been 200 jobs added to the community and the location offers a 24-hour drive through pharmacy.
“While it’s cold outside, it’s a great day in the Woodlawn neighborhood. Today, we are celebrating the grand opening of a new Jewel-Osco grocery store which is the first full-service grocery store to open here in over 40 years,” said Leon Walker, managing partner of DL3 Realty. “For 100 years Jewel has been Chicago’s number one neighborhood grocery store.”
The opening of this new Jewel- Osco in Woodlawn is the most recent accomplishment in a wave of developments in the area thanks to a $30.5 million U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhood Grant that was awarded to the Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) and the City of Chicago in 2011. The redevelopment in this area began in 2008 with a collaborative community and city effort to bring POAH into the neighborhood and address issues at Grove Parc Plaza which was a 504-unit housing complex that was solely occupied by Section 8 recipients.
POAH is a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve, create, and sustain affordable healthy homes, according to their website.
Ultimately, POAH set out to demolish Grove Parc Plaza and find a way to replace the 504 units of affordable housing in the community through new developments. Ten years later, the new Jewel-Osco has opened on the last piece of vacant land that was once home to Grove Parc Plaza and the grocery store is surrounded by new mixed-income housing developments, like the Woodlawn Station housing development located at 63rd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
“We knew that by taking down the foreboding old Grove Parc Plaza and replacing it with well-designed mixed-income housing both on South Cottage Grove and in the neighborhood, we would attract new businesses like a Jewel grocery store that would help make Woodlawn a community of choice,” said Aaron Gornstein, president and chief executive officer of POAH.
And a community of choice it is. For the first time in 50 years, the population of Woodlawn has increased by almost 15%, according to a press release announcing the new Jewel-Osco.
“All I can say is wow, we have finally arrived at this day after a long process of planning. Congratulations to everyone who has helped get us to where we are today and I want to give a special congratulations to the residents of Woodlawn. We at Jewel- Osco are super proud to be part of the Woodlawn community,” said Paul Gossett, president of Jewel-Osco.