Amid some of Larimer's and Lincoln's vacant lots, grass-roots dreams of redevelopment are growing. It's even possible that the long search for a neighborhood grocery store -- a quest that's included nonprofits, city councilors and impatient shoppers -- might yet bear fruit and vegetables.
On Dec. 15, community organizations and faith-based groups shared their ideas with an audience of about 40, including Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jerry Dettore and head of city planning Susan Golumb, at the Kingsley Center.
"The availability of food in the 12th Ward is null and void," said Judith Ginyard, executive director of the Lincoln-Larimer Community Development Corporation, referring to her neighborhood. "The demand is there, but the supply isn't."
Despite many years' effort, Ginyard acknowledged in a later interview, it's been extremely difficult to recruit a grocer to the area.
The major chains, she says, were "minimally interested" in joining the development plan. Thus, it'll be necessary to bring in or set up an independent grocer. "It'll have a high emphasis on ethnic foods," she continues, and will be about half the size of a typical suburban supermarket. "We may not be able to carry large varieties, but we will be able to accommodate basic needs, by letting the community indicate its desires ..."
For instance, Ginyard says, Lincoln-Larimer has a large elderly population whose members sometimes need specific foods to go with their medications. "We hear horror stories in the community of seniors whose medications aren't working because they're not meeting their nutritional component.
"A cookie-cutter development won't work in this neighborhood," Ginyard says.
But what if an independent grocer -- a rare species in any neighborhood -- won't step in? "If we have to take on the challenge of running the grocery store, we're prepared to do that with a partner."
Besides a grocery, the Lincoln-Larimer Community Development Corporation has a commitment from Family Dollar -- a five-and-dime store chain -- to join the modest shopping plaza. Two more storefronts would be available for community-owned businesses. The LLCDC also hopes to develop 55 scattered, "in-fill" housing units near the plaza.
First, Ginyard's LLCDC must acquire land -- but, for the first time, she says, she has reason to hope that the deal's almost done:
For the past few years, the LLCDC has been negotiating to purchase several city-owned lots at Lincoln Avenue and Deary Street, without seeking financing from the city or the URA. Now, says deputy city solicitor George Specter, negotiations are proceeding smoothly, although the deal will still need city council's approval.
Among plans for the community, replacement housing -- a few new or renovated units at a time -- was a popular proposal. More ambitiously, Mt. Ararat Baptist Church discussed plans for a new church, community center and perhaps more on the north end of the neighborhood near Negley Run Boulevard.
Notably, all of the development plans presented last week are being advanced by Larimer-area residents and institutions, not by outside developers or the city itself.
Concludes Ginyard: "We're not looking for outside experts to tell us what they want for our neighborhood."