CHARLOTTE, N.C. — West Boulevard community leaders have been working for years to get a grocery store in their neighborhood. City leaders said Tuesday the pieces are finally in place to move forward with funding the Three Sisters Market on the corner of West Boulevard and Clanton Road.
The goal is to build a full-service store next to the Three Sisters urban farm, which seeks solutions for food insecurity in the historically underserved area.
"When you look at where people have the opportunity to shop on this corridor you look at the dollar stores and convenience stores, and the products don’t align with long term improvement of social determinants of health," Ricky Hall told WCNC Charlotte.
Hall is the board chair of the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition and a member of the board that will oversee the future food market.
The Three Sisters urban farm was created in 2015 – providing an oasis of healthy produce in the middle of a food desert. Community leaders explained local youth work at the farm through the Seeds for Change program to learn how to grow their own food. The children then sell the produce on site during farmers market hours.
"We haven’t had a grocery store since 1993, this is the third attempt to get a market," Hall said.
According to Mecklenburg County data, countywide, about 30% of households are within a half mile from a grocery store. However, in the West Boulevard corridor, there are zero households within a half mile of a grocery store.
"It is important residents have access to healthy food options," Sharika Comfort, executive director of the coalition, told WCNC Charlotte.
Comfort and Hall have been digging into plans to turn land next to the farm into a food cooperative.
"The goal is to have one floor be community meeting and event space and the other be the actual grocery store, we’re also looking at a community kitchen and a coffee shop or deli," Comfort explained.
Making the grocery store a cooperative means community members will own shares of the business. The goal is to plant the seed for a healthier, happier community while also growing jobs and the local economy.
"It’s a community wealth building strategy and an economic development strategy that is intended to keep people in place in the West Boulevard corridor area," Hall added.
City council was updated Tuesday on the project for the first time in a year and a half.
Staff members said builders have been chosen for the project and the coalition is searching for a general manager to run the store and oversee operations. Once the store is built, the West Boulevard Food Cooperative board will be in charge of the general manager.
Mecklenburg County is committing $3 million to the project. Now, Charlotte City Council will vote at its next meeting on Monday on whether to pay $1.5 million for construction costs.
The total cost is estimated to be $10 million.
Starting Sept. 14, the Three Sisters farmers market hours are every Thursday and Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m..
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