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'We have the momentum': Co-op grocery store in Smoketown plans to break ground in 2023

"We will provide what the community needs, and that's fresh, healthy and affordable food," Louisville Community Grocery spokesperson Tiffany Michelle Brown said.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Next year, developers are expected to break ground on a full-service grocery store in the Smoketown neighborhood, where families currently don't have easy access to fresh food for miles. 

After the full Metro Council voted to approve nearly $3.5 million for the Louisville Community Grocery (LCG), the money needed to get the project started, the years-long mission is one step closer to reality.

The money will support early development of the store, with construction set to start in the third quarter of 2023.

“We are excited at every step in this process to bring a grocery store to the community,” Louisville Community Grocery spokesperson Tiffany Michelle Brown said. "This is something we all can celebrate and take pride in. The community will finally have the grocery it deserves."

LCG said it now has to raise an additional $3 million in private funds to get the doors open.

Developers pushed through failed negotiations with the city in February to get the initiative back on track. Brown came to the city in March to keep the mission alive.

"We have the momentum we need to close this and actually have a grocery store that's owned by the community," she said. "We will provide what the community needs, and that's fresh, healthy and affordable food."

20-year Smoketown resident Curtis Taylor, executive director of Loaves and Fishes Inc., says he's seen promises made before fall through.

"You get your hopes up, and you hope things do change," he said.

Skeptical when he first heard these plans almost a year ago, Taylor says he's now more hopeful this'll work.

"That's a pretty big lot there," he said. "There are a lot of things that are broken in this neighborhood that need to be fixed, but that is a step up."

But he believes with so many hands involved, there needs to be equal investment and transparency.

"[They need] to have an open door of communication with the community, and the people who live in it. [That's] the key to the success," Taylor said. "They've been deprived so long of the basic things that most people take for granted."

Council member Jecorey Arthur said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified Smoketown as a food desert, meaning a significant number of people live more than a mile from a full-service grocery.

"This issue is exacerbated considering that the University of Louisville State of Food study found that 51% of households in eastern downtown, aka Smoketown, lack vehicle access," he said. 

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Arthur said the proposed site for this grocery store is on a vacant acre of land that used to be the Louisville Slugger Production Factory on the corner of Finzer Street and South Jackson Street. The location is walkable for families living nearby, which community leaders say will be a huge benefit.

With 600 owners already bought in, Brown says the future is bright.

"It will just continue to build community, having a place where you can come and eat at the deli and get coffee, and hang out and talk with your neighbors," she said.

Brown says they expect to have all private donations secured by early next year.

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