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Chicago Hopes Expo Will Attract Stores to Minority Neighborhoods

CHICAGO -- The first-ever "Grocery Store Expo," scheduled to take place here in February, aims to draw big supermarket chains and independents to underserved minority areas, said new Planning and Development Commissioner Lori Healy at a City Council hearing this week, according to published reports.

The hearing was called to address the insufficient number of food retailers in African-American and Latino neighborhoods. Healy said the city would find potential sites, organize incentive packages, and spotlight cost figures to assist city aldermen in drawing grocers to their neighborhoods.

"This is a big initiative. We'll have a big kickoff. We'll invite lots and lots of grocery chains," the commissioner told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago aldermen claim that the shortage of such stores in their neighborhoods was a racist issue. In more trendy areas, major grocers' lack of interest is blamed on gentrification, zoning restrictions, and the high cost of land.

The hearing came a month after a study confirmed that poor South Side residents live in a "commercial desert" featuring many liquor stores and fast-food restaurants, but few grocery stores, drug stores, or other retailers.
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