A Chattanooga businessman has plans to put a Save-a-Lot grocery store in a city neighborhood which officials termed "a food desert."
Business owner Chaudry Ali wants to invest about $2 million in a former grocery store site at 2300 Dodson Ave., said Reginald Ruff, a Chattanooga architect and the project's manager.
Plans are for the 11,000-square-foot store to open in mid-summer, he told the city's Industrial Development Board on Monday. The board agreed to provide the business with a $30,000 grant to improve the exterior of the site, which formerly held a Sunnytown Supermarket which closed in 2014.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod will discuss the city’s investment in economic development in East Chattanooga at the proposed new Sav-a-Lot at 2300 Dodson Ave. today at 11:45 a.m.
The new grocery store by Ali, who also owns Rogers Super Market on East Main Street, is expected to create seven full-time and eight part-time jobs.
Ruff said that Ali "felt good about the [Dodson Avenue] neighborhood. He's a strong supporter of the neighborhood." Ruff said that plans are for the new store to serve people living within five miles of the store.
Before the location was a Sunnytown Supermarket, it's believed the site held a Red Food Store.
Jermaine Freeman, economic development officer for the city, told the board that the funding for Save-a-Lot is the first under the Renewing Chattanooga grant program.
He said the Save-a-Lot is "the exact type of project we were looking for when the program was designed."
The city program will allow for grants to businesses in blighted properties in under-served parts of the city, he said.
Freeman said that former Mayor Jon Kinsey's administration offered similar facade grants to small businesses about two decades ago.
He said money for the Renewing Chattanooga program will come from a fund that larger companies pay into as part of securing city property tax breaks under their payments in-lieu-of-tax (PILOT) agreements with the the city when developing a project.
Plans are to earmark about $150,000 for Renewing Chattanooga. Minus the $30,000 for the Save-a-Lot store, that will leave the program with $120,000, Freeman said.
A map by the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department has shown that food deserts where there are no readily accessible grocery outlets for local residents generally match up with the poorest parts of town. Often, residents there are not a promising target for grocery stores and they can't afford a car to drive to a supermarket in another neighborhood.
That lack of grocery stores also leads to a higher incidence of corner stores and restaurants, but no access to healthy foods, officials have said. Food deserts are not the only reason why low-income people tend to be overweight, but they're an important reason, say health officials.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.