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Chicago’s Woodlawn Neighborhood Gets New Jewel-Osco

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File: A Jewel-Osco store is seen in Chicago, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013.

Nam Y. Huh

The first full-service grocery store in more than 40 years serving Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood is now open.

Jewel-Osco debuted to much fanfare Thursday morning on 61st and Cottage Grove with dignitaries, a performance from the South Shore Drill Team and many nearby senior citizens shopping.

“There were 40 people waiting outside the doors this morning at 6 a.m.,” said Paul Gossett, Jewel-Osco president.

Betty Powell lives in a senior building right behind the new grocer.

“This is more convenient. I can come right out the door and go across the street. For the seniors it’s very important,” Powell said.

The $20 million South Side store is the latest development on the site of a former Section 8 housing development that’s been transformed into a mixed-income community. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded Woodlawn a $30.5 million grant. Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) has led the redevelopment efforts.

For the past three years POAH has been training Woodlawn residents in retail certification to work at Jewel. Of the 530 jobs at the grocer, 376 are filled by Woodlawn residents.

“That’s what you want to see from Woodlawn. Everybody is excited to see the store. It’s nice to walk around and see people that have come through our resource center to get prepared for the jobs who live in our property, who live in Woodlawn. They’re all here today working,” said Felicia Dawson, the POAH vice president who led the the training efforts.

The opening of a new grocery store may seem mundane in some neighborhoods, but in black communities it’s often the cause of celebration because of a dearth of healthy food options and economic development. City support for Woodlawn’s Jewel included $11.5 million in new market tax credits. Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Jewel is the 11th new or repurposed grocery store on the South Side.

Jewel is located in the 20th Ward where Ald. Willie Cochran is resigning later this month in the face of federal corruption charges. He stood on stage at the press conference but didn’t speak as part of the program. Once the officials exited, Cochran remained to tell the crowd he worked hard for Woodlawn. Then someone handed him a microphone.

“Congratulations. I’m proud to be standing here today and say we played a major role in bringing this store here,” Cochran said.

Natalie Moore is a reporter on WBEZ’s Race, Class and Communities desk. You can follow her on Twitter.

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