Mariano's plans to open store in Bronzeville

May 14, 2014

(WBEZ/Natalie Moore)
The site on 39th and King Drive where a new Mariano’s will open. The mixed-income community Oakwood Shores is in the background.

Mariano’s, the deluxe grocery chain that’s swiftly spreading throughout the Chicago region, is planning a store in Bronzeville.

The new store will offer fresh food to a neighborhood starved for better options. Mariano’s is expected create 400 jobs and start construction in 2015 at 39th and King Drive, the site of the former Ida B. Wells public housing development. For several years the grassy land has been empty and behind it sits the Oakwood Shores mixed-income housing development.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel said he’s been working with CEO Bob Mariano to open the eponymous chain throughout the city.

“I think he felt while it’s not a quote unquote traditional food desert, it is underrepresented and given the population, it’s a prime market,” Emanuel said. “This is a first of a number of stores over a number of years that he’s going to be producing on the South Side.”

Mariano’s has taken the grocery market by storm, recently snapping up several closed Dominick’s. In 2013, just four Mariano’s operated in the city of Chicago. By the end of this year there will be 29 stores in the city and suburbs.

Bronzeville is a historic black neighborhood that’s struggled to realize a full renaissance over the last two decades. A full-service grocery store has long been on the neighborhood wish list. Many residents shop in the South Loop or Hyde Park for quality groceries. Or they rely on small corner stores. In 2009, the Milwaukee-based Roundy's Supermarket – the parent company of Mariano’s – announced a store at 39th and State Street. It never happened.

“Our community welcomes stores like this that will encourage job growth while reusing vacant land for community purposes. The store will bring new employment opportunities for our residents and turn a vacant parcel of land into a bustling destination for people throughout the Bronzeville area to shop. Additionally, our community needs more retail developments like Mariano’s that will generate taxes, serve our residents and welcome visitors to our area,” said Stephen Mitchell a resident who’s part of the Bronzeville Neighborhood Collaborative.

The mayor said no tax increment financing dollars, or TIFs, will be used to bankroll the project. Johnson and Lee Architects, a minority-owned architecture firm, has been tapped for the 74,000-sq. ft. store. The development is a joint venture between John Bonds of Safeway Construction and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives. 

The deal hinges on a land sale agreement with the Chicago Housing Authority, which has lagged behind in its mixed-income housing strategy and thus has large swaths of unused land. CHA has been considering other uses for open land. The developer has agreed to purchase the property for $5.5 million after a quibble over the worth of the land. The CHA board is expected to approve the sale at next week’s meeting.

is WBEZ’s South Side Bureau reporter. Email her at nmoore@wbez.org. Follow her on Google+ and  Twitter.