Chester's missing supermarket

May 15, 2009 3:48:46 PM PDT
The people of Chester, Pa. haven't had a supermarket of their own since 2001.In 2008, the state dedicated millions of dollars to a Major League Soccer and Entertainment complex, along with money for a new supermarket.

It was supposed to be built at the corner of 15th Street and Highland Avenue.

The stadium is well on its way, but the lot for the store remains awash in weeds, dirt, and debris.

Right now, Chester residents must either travel to neighboring Brookhaven or Eddystone to shop, or pay higher prices at smaller mom and pop markets.

"It will help us out, we won't have to drive all over the place. The question is, will it last?" asked Tashanda Lawson.

Chester, which has a high crime and poverty rate, has not had a full service grocery store since 2001.

"The chains are afraid to come into Chester because of drugs and stealing," said resident Bob Miller.

State Representative Thaddeus Kirkland says he is working with the state to earmark $4 million to develop the store. He says Collins Markets, which operates local Shoprites, is interested.

"We purposely tied money for the soccer stadium construction to the building of a supermaket, because we knew the residents of Chester desperately need a supermarket," Kirkland said.

Tina Johnson of the Chester Community Grocery Co-op says this proposal is too little too late. Her group has been fighting for a co-op market for years but never received city support.

She believes years without access to affordable, nutritious food have left the community with abysmal health statistics.

"I know we're above national average in obesity for young people. The lack of access in what people call a 'food desert' has a negative impact on the community," she said.

Kirkland says this took time because the chains couldn't find a space that would allow for a large enough parking lot.

If everything goes well, a groundbreaking could come by the end of the summer.

A Shoprite spokesperson says they do not comment on pending projects.

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