City explores options to build affordable grocery in Allied Drive neighborhood

Despite having to cancel a Madison Food Policy Council meeting, city officials are working to find the Allied Drive neighborhood an affordable full-service grocery store with a $300,000 loan incentive.

City Business Development Specialist Ruth Rohlich later explained how recent road construction and a Walgreens closing last month have restricted residents’ affordable food options.

“The Walgreens closing created a huge vacuum in an already food-insecure area,” Rohlich said. “We know that it was never the solution for food issues, but it was a really close option for people.”

She said that while most Walgreens stores have approximately 5 percent food sales, that store had more than 20 percent.

About 250 individuals in that area do not have access to a vehicle to reach affordable options that are farther away, according to a recent staff report.

Mayor Paul Soglin directed staff in October 2014 to begin exploring options to secure a grocer near the Allied Drive neighborhood, according to the meeting master document.

Common Council accepted a staff report Jan. 20 from the Allied Neighborhood Staff Team with the recommendation of creating a $300,000 low-interest or forgivable loan to attract a grocer to the area.

The “major” reconstruction of Verona Road could provide better access to the commercial district and neighborhoods and have positive long-term effects on the area, although a specific address is not determined, according to a draft proposal.

However, the construction is projected to continue for the next five years and may inhibit short-term solutions, which is why the city wants to offer the loan.

“Right now, that road project is pretty prohibitive for new development occurring there in the timeframe we need a food option available to residents,” Rohlich said.

Grocers or property owners must submit a letter of intent to apply by May 1, and the city will review the proposals in June.

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