BRADENTON -- More than 100 people turned up in a celebratory mood Monday for a groundbreaking ceremony at the new $6 million retail center featuring a Save-A-Lot grocery store in downtown Bradenton.
The 16,000-square-foot grocery is to be located along First Street and 13th Avenue West, the site of the former 13th Avenue Community Center.
The plaza is to be named "The Minnie L. Rogers Plaza and Retail Center" in honor of the late community leader, Minnie L. Rogers.
"What we're looking at is the evolution of an entire community," said Wenston DeSue, executive director of the Bradenton Housing Authority.
"We would like to thank the Rogers family and we can't think of any better way to memorialize them (than) by naming the site after them."
"It's really a transformation of a community that was distressed, and that no one really paid attention to -- from my side of the business, from the government side," Mayor Wayne Poston said. "That has changed, we have moved forward ... everybody here can feel like they're a real part of the city of Bradenton."
Sitting in the best seats under a tent packed with peo
ple were at least 30 of Rogers' descendants.
"I am absolutely flabbergasted about this," said Mary Brewer, 79, Rogers' daughter, a retiree who flew in from San Francisco for the occasion.
The public-private project would have been one that her mother, who passed away in 1985, would have embraced, she said.
In addition to the new grocery, the center also will boast about 10,950 square feet of retail space, said Cary W. Neil, co-founder of the New Start Community Development LLC, of Birmingham, Ala.
The project is expected to cost between $5.5 million and $6 million, and could open sometime in the second quarter of 2013, Neil said.
"What it means is beyond words for a community in a food desert so long," said ceremony emcee Rev. Edward Leftwich. The grocery will provide healthy foods, job opportunities, and shopping at a reasonable price, he said.
"Many don't have autos," he said of those who live in the neighborhood. "They will not be subjected to the exorbitant prices of a 7-Eleven."
When Minnie Rogers was alive, she led a drive to build a community center on the property, going so far as to enlist the help of educator Mary McLeod Bethune and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, according to Patrick Carnegie, president and chief executive officer of United Community Centers, Inc.
Using federal funds and land donated by the Bradenton City Council, a center opened there in 1937. For decades it was a community hub until it was replaced in 2010 by a new center elsewhere, he said.
"Mrs. Minnie, we salute you, we honor you today," said Carnegie. "Good job and God bless."
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.