ENGLEWOOD — Plans to build a healthy neighborhood grocery store and cafe in a vacant Englewood building pushed forward Wednesday when Mayor Lori Lightfoot recommended a $1.75 million city grant to complete construction this summer.
The Inner-City Muslim Action Network is behind the effort to transform the building at 1211 W. 63rd St. into a community hub named Healthy Marketplace. It will feature 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. A community room with displays from local artists is also planned as part of the 7,000-square-foot, $2.9 million project.
The Inner-City Action Network applied for a Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant last year. On Wednesday, the mayor introduced an ordinance to award the project $1.75 million. All grants from the fund over $250,000 must be approved by the City Council.
The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, designed to help small businesses in the city’s neighborhoods, has been a source of frustration for some businesses since its creation.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel started the fund in 2016 in an attempt to capitalize on the building boom Downtown and in the West Loop by giving developers the green light to build taller and denser projects — for a price. The extra zoning fees collected from the developers are intended to boost economic development on the South and West sides by offering small business grants.
But the effort faced criticism from business owners that the application process was overly complicated and the selection criteria was inconsistent.
Emanuel’s administration only ended up awarding $890,000 in grants before he left office. When Lightfoot was elected, she found a pot of nearly $57 million, spurring her to make changes to the program to try to simplify it and get the money in the hands of neighborhood projects.
The Healthy Marketplace in Englewood is part of a larger effort to revitalize the Racine Avenue corridor. The project intends to spur economic growth while also providing healthy food and jobs for neighborhood residents.
The city money is expected to be used to rehabilitate and build out the vacant building. The project is also being funded by The Kresge Foundation, The Builder’s Initiative, The Walton Family Foundation and Self-Help Ventures Fund.
The market is part of Go Green On Racine, a larger, $20 million collaboration between IMAN, R.A.G.E. (Residents Association of Greater Englewood), E.G. Woode and Teamwork Englewood that seeks to restore the Racine Avenue corridor to its former glory. A groundbreaking ceremony was held last year.
Go Green On Racine, meanwhile, 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 winner of that award is expected to be announced later this year.
At the earlier groundbreaking for the project, Inner-City Muslim Action Network’s Executive Director Rami Nashashibi, said the Englewood development could lead to great things.
“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.
The “Lens On Lightfoot” project is a collaboration of seven Chicago newsrooms examining the first year of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. Partners are the BGA, Block Club Chicago, Chalkbeat Chicago, The Chicago Reporter, The Daily Line, La Raza and The TRiiBE. It is managed by the Institute for Nonprofit News.