By Abby Moore
UNC-CH Staff Writer
The Durham VOICE
Five decades ago, the southwest corner of Alston Avenue and Liberty Street bustled with the activity of Winn Dixie grocery shoppers. Now empty except for a blighted building, Durham hopes to see the corner bustling again.
At the beginning of this year, Durham’s Office of Economic Work and Development proposed a project that plans to renovate the old Winn Dixie building into a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Kevin Dick, director of the OEWD presented the proposal to City Council on Jan. 3.
“There is not a set date,” Dick says of the planned renovation. “But we are striving for them to begin by late summer or early fall.”
The $2.1 million venture is a partnership between the city of Durham and Moran Foods Inc. that seeks to benefit Northeast Central Durham residents. According to Dick, Save-A-Lot will make a $1.9 million investment and Durham city government plans to contribute $150,000.
“The city is committed to paying $150,000 to aid with the development costs if project deliverables related to construction are met,” Dick says. “There will also be commitments on the part of Save-A-Lot to allow Durham businesses and Durham job seekers the opportunities to bid for construction-related contracts, temporary and full-time positions.”
The project will create 13 new jobs, including positions in grocery store management, departmental supervision, store clerk and cashiers. Dick says NECD residents will also benefit from having an additional grocery store option.
Dotted with a handful of small convenience marts, NECD contains few stores that provide a large variety of grocery options. The area is often referred to as a food desert, lacking resources such as chain grocery stores where fresh meat, fruits and vegetables are available and affordable.
However, several produce stores are available for residents. Los Primos is a six-aisle supermarket on the corner of East Main Street and Alston Avenue that offers a variety of food options. TROSA grocery is a smaller store on Angier Avenue that provides work-based training to recovering substance abusers. A Lowes Foods is located on the outskirts of the community on North Miami Boulevard, but walking customers must brave a busy intersection without a crosswalk.
Kevin Bradshaw, an employee at TROSA grocery, says this is a problem because many residents of NECD do not have transportation. Bradshaw, a member of a the TROSA program who has worked at the store for 14 months, says that it’s important to have a grocery store within walking distance.
“I see a few of the same people who walk in every single day,” Bradshaw says. “They feel comfortable here.”
Bradshaw also says that it’s the community that makes the TROSA grocery special. And when his program finishes in 32 days, he knows he will keep in touch with friends he has made in the area.
Miguel Collado is the owner of Los Primos Supermarket, which is located just down the street from the proposed Save-A-Lot location. He says the new store will probably not have a huge affect on his business.
“It’s a different type of grocery store than what we are,” Collado says. “We’ve done it for 10 years and there are a lot of happy people in the area.”
Collado also says that Los Primos provides specific services that aren’t available at other stores. The supermarket offers free money orders along with other bill payment services.
The OEWD and Save-A-Lot still plan to move forward with the project, hoping to provide NECD residents with more grocery options.
“We hope for the project to be completed by the first calendar quarter of 2013,” Dick says.