Jubilee Homes aims to start work on South Side grocery store in January

Treona Mclean, 18, has to make sacrifices. About two times a month, Mclean rides the bus from her home on Hudson Street to the Western Lights shopping center to buy groceries.

“It kind of sucks,” said Mclean, who travels home with six to eight bags after every two- to four-hour trip. “I don’t really enjoy it but I have to do it … I actually see a lot of people from this community on the bus, going grocery shopping.”

Since the P&C Foods store on South Salina Street closed early last year, Mclean and some 20,000 South Side community members have had to find other places to buy food.

According to Jubilee Homes of Syracuse Inc., that might soon change.

In August, Onondaga County made a $100,000 contribution to Jubilee Homes, a neighborhood redevelopment and housing agency that plans to start construction on a South Side grocery store in January 2011. This is the biggest contribution the $3.9 million project has received, said Patrice Chang, lead project manager for Jubilee.

“I am extremely confident that … we are going to see the funds begin to be allocated to us from the government sector. The money is there,” Chang said regarding the status of three New York state grant requests. “This is not going to be the type of project that we can dismiss. It is a major priority for the community.”

One grant Jubilee is seeking is from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. Because of plans to have the grocery store LEED-certified, Chang is confident the money will be approved.

LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is a rating system given to buildings that are “designed to promote design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts,” according to the Natural Resources Defense Council website.

Jubilee purchased the building on the corner of South Avenue and Bellevue Avenue in August 2009 for $350,000, said Walt Dixie, Jubilee’s executive director. When the new store is completed, it will provide the community with much-needed vegetables and fruits and affordable food, Jubilee’s website says.

In order to keep the community aware of the project, Rentia Ferguson, outreach coordinator with Jubilee, has signed up 3,189 people for a shopper card program. The cards are used with coupons to get deals and discounts at South Side businesses like Eco Cleaners & Laundromat and Jerk Hut, Ferguson said.

“I do (the) coupons just so I can keep the community’s faith and hope about the supermarket up,” Ferguson said.

Like Mclean, Louise Poindexter and Cynthia Patterson, who both live near the proposed grocery store site, used to ride the bus regularly to Western Lights — and also to the Price Chopper on Erie Boulevard. Poindexter used to take along a cart for her groceries, struggling with an injured back.

“This was very stressful for me,” said Poindexter. “I didn’t do it often because it was too hard.”
With two children at home, Patterson made the two-hour trip twice a week.

“I did it for years,” Patterson said. “I would carry 10 to 12 bags.”

For some smaller items, Poindexter tried shopping at corner stores. Although many of the stores sold some fruits and vegetables, their selection was limited and it was expensive, Poindexter said.

“One time, I spent 20 to 25 dollars in one of the little corner stores and I just had enough to make a meal for myself for that night,” Poindexter said. “Prices have always been high but that’s ridiculous. I can’t spend 20 dollars or more on each meal.”

Patterson agreed. “I used to go to them but the prices are too high. The food is stale sometimes.”

The $100,000 is from Onondaga County’s Green Improvement Fund. The fund is part of the Save the Rain Initiative, which is aimed at reducing the amount of rainwater that enters the city sewer system, County Executive Joanie Mahoney said in a statement.

The grocery store planned at 611 South Ave. will have an 11,588-square-foot roof-top garden that will  capture about 204,000 gallons of rain a year, Mahoney said.