BRADENTON -- A federal grant program designed to bring healthy food to so-called “food deserts” may become a source of funding for a planned grocery store near downtown Bradenton.
The community revitalization group coordinating the effort to bring a grocery store to 201 13th Ave. W. has proposed teaming with a nonprofit community development corporation to apply for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative grant program.
“Our commitment is to be as creative as possible in regard to identifying funding sources to make this a viable project,” said Sherod Halliburton, executive director of the Central Community Redevelopment Agency that is pursuing the grocery store.
Suncoast Community Capital, a nonprofit community development corporation, will determine within the next month whether it will apply for the grant, which is available through the federal Office of Community Services.
“We definitely feel there is a need for a grocery store in central Bradenton and that’s why we’re at the table, to see if we can help play a small role in making that happen,” said Mike Kennedy, executive director of Suncoast. “But we have not made a decision yet on whether we’re applying for the grants. All of the parties involved still need to have more detailed conversations about what the deal looks like.”
Halliburton described the pursuit of grant funding as a “safety net” for the project, which is expected to be funded mostly by the private developer and retailer that will locate at the site.
“The retailer, the size of the store, and its economic model will all dictate what the financial needs will be,” Halliburton said. “But we understand very clearly that the city of Bradenton is not in a position to subsidize, in a major way, any development. So that’s why this nonprofit is very important, in the event there is a shortage of funding for the project.”
The term “food deserts” refers to areas where fresh produce and other healthy food are not readily available. They can be found in both urban and rural areas and usually offer food for sale only through fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.
The CCRA has been pursuing a grocery store at 201 13th Ave. W. since it obtained the site in 2008. The store will serve two purposes: it will make healthy food like fresh produce more available to many of the county’s low-income residents and it will provide the entire downtown community -- including office workers and condo residents -- a more accessible grocery store.
The nearest grocery store to the downtown area right now is about five miles away. Numerous city planning efforts over the years have identified a grocery store as a pivotal need for downtown Bradenton.
A traffic study was completed earlier this month that confirmed the project would not have a negative impact on nearby roadways, said Jim McLellan, the city’s engineering section manager.
The study recommended several measures to prevent traffic stacking on either 13th Avenue or First Street and also recommended the eventual installation of a “right-turn only” lane on eastbound 13th Avenue. But even without the new lane, McLellan said, the project is considered viable in terms of its traffic impact.
The developer in charge of the project is Casto, which also handled development of Sarasota’s Whole Foods Market. Casto has not yet pinpointed a retailer to take on the project, Halliburton said, although the CCRA and Casto hope to land a mainstream grocery retailer instead of a discount chain.
The grocery is anticipated to be about 28,000 square feet, Halliburton said, and the deadline for the federal grant application is in early July.
Christine Hawes, Bradenton Herald business writer, can be reached at (941) 745-7081.