ENGLEWOOD — What started as an impossible dream inched a step closer to reality as Englewood leaders gathered Thursday for the groundbreaking of a new fresh market, the first in a series of new developments hitting the West 63rd Street corridor.
The fresh market, a cooperative enterprise from the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN), will be an expansion of the organization’s Fresh Market stand, which launched last year. The store will offer locally-sourced produce and ready-to-eat meals prepared by Chicago-area chefs. Training and office space will be on the second floor, with an outdoor garden on the adjacent lot.
Go Green On Racine, a team that includes the Inner-city Muslim Action Network, is one of six finalists from the South and West sides competing for the Chicago Prize, a $10 million grant from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. Contestants were tasked with creating a development that would reenergize a long-neglected commercial corridor while improving the safety and well-being of their community.
The market’s build out will cost $3.5 million and the project is set to be completed this fall. The market’s buildout was funded by The Kresge Foundation, the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, The Builder’s Initiative, The Walton Family Foundation and Self-Help Ventures Fund.
The market is Phase One of the $20 million Go Green On Racine plan, a collaboration between the Inner-city Muslim Action Network, E.G. Woode, Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.) and Teamwork Englewood.
For Rami Nashashibi, Inner-city Muslim Action Network’s executive director, the groundbreaking symbolized the beauty of possibility.
“It’s given us additional momentum and opportunities to put together what we think is a dynamic set of possibilities that we’re already shopping around to other funders and investors across the city,” Nashashibi said.
“We love all our other contestants for the Chicago Prize, but we really think we have a unique set of elements that have come together here, and a very unique opportunity to spur catalytic investment.”
The second phase of the plan calls for a 16,500 square-foot building to be built that would house 12 residential units, a food retailer, a rooftop garden and a street-level business incubator, complete with co-working space.
The third phase involves repurposing a former school, Granville T. Woods Academy, into a low-grade recycling hub and upcycling lab and turning the surrounding grounds into a community food forest with fruit and nut trees.
As the new developments open, the team also plans to lobby for the CTA’s Racine Green Line stop to reopen.
Samir Mayekar, deputy mayor of economic and neighborhood development; E.G. Woode’s Deon Lucas; Camile DiMello, executive director of Teamwork Englewood; Alds. David Moore (16th) and Stephanie Coleman (17th); and Residents Association of Greater Englewood members Asiaha Butler and Patricia Cunningham were also at the groundbreaking.
Cunningham, whose family has been in Englewood for more than 60 years, was the one who reached out to the Inner-city Muslim Action Network in 2013, as their corner store was one of the few that actually engaged with the neighborhood.
“I was supposed to identify a store in the area that was doing good,” recalled Cunningham. “They were making smoothies, selling fresh produce, promoting healthy eating.”
She went on to thank Moore and Coleman for “making dreams come true.”
“Whether we win the prize or not, this is still happening,” said Butler. “This is a movement. This is Englewood rising together.”
The winner of the Chicago Prize will be announced in March.
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