Chattanooga housing Authority Board meeting
The Chattanooga Housing Authority’s board of commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved the sale of the Grove Street Center to a company that plans to give the Westside community a long-awaited grocery store.
The property was bought to allow Chattanooga businessman Gerald Mason to “open his grocery store down there,” said Dragan Lazarevic, manager of New York-based Countrywide Consultants, which bought the Grove Street building.
Renovations are expected to be complete and the grocery open by the end of summer, officials said.
The building was purchased for $360,000 by David Collins, president of Countrywide Consultants, which has an office on Lee Highway. Mr. Mason’s son-in-law, Thomas Kenton, is friends with Mr. Lazarevic and contacted Countrywide Consultants to buy the building when Mr. Mason’s initial attempts to open a Westside grocery failed, Mr. Lazarevic said.
“It’s been an 18- to 24-month journey,” Mr. Mason said. “We want the people in the community to know we never left them.”
Mr. Mason has operated several businesses in the Chattanooga area, including Kandy Kastle Day Care, once the city’s largest day-care provider, and the former Kastle Transportation Services. He now is co-owner of Kastle Instructional Recovery, a state-certified tutorial service. He also is a co-founder of A Night To Remember, an annual event that raises funds for local nonprofit organizations.
BY THE NUMBERS
$360,000— Sale price for the Grove Street Center
$58,000 — Amount Chattanooga Housing Authority gets at closing for the sale
$4.5 million — Housing Authority’s current budget shortfall
3,500 — Low-income residents in the Westside community where the store is located
If the grocery store opens, it will be the only one in the Westside community and will be across the street from College Hill Courts and Gateway Apartments, two low-income housing developments. The Westside community, which has three public housing sites and five subsidized housing complexes, includes 3,500 low-income residents, with people age 50 and older accounting for one-third of the population, according to Chattanooga Housing Authority officials.
Housing Authority board members convened Tuesday through a specially called teleconference to expedite the Grove Street Center sale, which nets the housing authority about $58,000. The closing was scheduled for immediately after the teleconference.
The money will go toward the housing authority’s $4.5 billion budget shortfall, said Eddie Holmes, chairman of the housing authority board.
Buehler’s Food Market is more than a mile away from the Westside community, and most elderly residents must ride the bus to get there, housing officials said.
The 5,626-square-foot Grove Street store will sell fresh meat, produce, personal care products and canned goods, Mr. Mason said. It also will offer delivery service to disabled and elderly residents in the high-rise public housing buildings, he said.
Some Westside residents said they look forward to having a grocery, but they are concerned about beer sales.
“The store that was there before sold beer, and we had a lot of problems because of that,” said Bobby Paris, president of the Dogwood Manor Resident Association. “It’s not acceptable because it contributes to trouble.”
Sherman’s Westside Grocery Store operated throughout the 1980s and closed in the early 1990s, Mr. Paris said. People bought beer and stood outside the building all night, he said.
“People hung out and did nothing but just drank,” he said.
Customers will be asked to show identification when buying beer, and they will not be allowed to stand around the store, Mr. Mason said. Full-time uniformed security personnel also will be hired for the store, he said.
“This is not a juke joint,” he said. “This is a modern-day mini-grocery store. We don’t anticipate any problems. Most of the items will be food based.”
Mr. Mason had signed a lease agreement with the housing authority in September 2007 for space to open the Grove Street grocery. The housing authority initially said its subsidiary company, The Grove Street Center LLC, would pay for the renovations, but the deal fell through when the housing authority couldn’t come up with the money, said Bryant Lowery, director of asset management.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...