La Salle University Fresh Grocer Opens Today

The Fresh Grocer, a supermarket chain committed to developing new stores in communities previously overlooked by growing businesses, cuts the ribbon today on its first green, eco-friendly store in northwest Philadelphia, near La Salle University. It’s the eighth store opening since The Fresh Grocer began in 1996; the next Philadelphia location is expected in Progress Plaza this December.

Last night, local officials, community development groups, and neighborhood residents gathered to celebrate the completion of the new 50,000-square-foot supermarket, which brought 265 new jobs to the neighborhood – 98 percent live in the city of Philadelphia, and 46 percent live in the store’s surrounding community.

The Fresh Grocer is the anchor for Moreland Development’s $15 million, 80,000-square-foot retail center called the Shoppes at La Salle. The grocery store, which was financed with the help of a $4 million grant that Moreland of Bala Cynwyd received from the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative, a Philadelphia-based community revitalization program championed by state Rep. Dwight Evans (D-Philadelphia), is the first for the north Philadelphia neighborhood in 40 years. The effort aims to increase the number of supermarkets in underserved communities across the state. The program has subsidized the development of two-dozen supermarkets in deprived urban and rural areas of Pennsylvania.

Neighborhood residents were thrilled with the opening, vowing to be local patrons to the new store. Store employee Wanda Williams, overflowing with excitement, said she was grateful for her new position at the store. During the opening celebration, she manned the customer loyalty card station, getting residents and local dignitaries signed up for their own Fresh Grocer Rewards Card.

“We already achieved our goals getting this store open and creating more than 260 new jobs in this region,” said Grant McLoughlin, VP of The Fresh Grocer. “These are 260 jobs that did not exist, in an area hit hard by the economic downturn. We’re swimming upstream and building business and opportunities. Now our goal is to be a successful business that contributes to the neighborhood.”

The next Fresh Grocer location in Progress Plaza is part of a five-acre development by Progress Investment Associates, Inc. The 46,000-square-foot store is on track for its target grand opening in December. Benjamin F. Gilbert, Progress Investment’s executive director, said he’s inspired by the grocer’s commitment to underdeveloped urbanscapes.

“This is excellent,” Gilbert said during the celebration. “For a long time these large supermarkets were not willing to invest in these areas. It’s good to see them coming back.”

There hasn’t been a supermarket in Progress Plaza since Super Fresh vacated in 1999. The closing was part of the flight of large chains in impoverished urban areas nationwide. The Fresh Grocer will be the anchor for Progress Plaza, the nation’s first African-American-owned shopping center. A $17 million renovation of the site included the construction of the 46,000-square-foot, 24-hour supermarket operated by The Fresh Grocer. The historic plaza is located at 1501 N. Broad St. It was founded in 1968 by the late Rev. Leon H. Sullivan, former pastor of Zion Baptist Church in north Philadelphia. In honor of the plaza’s history, the redeveloped shopping center will be named Sullivan Progress Plaza.

The La Salle store’s environmentally friendly construction was designed to minimize energy consumption and helps reduce the store’s carbon footprint. Covering the entire 50,000-square-foot supermarket, the store’s white roof reduces the heat gain on the building as well as the immediate surrounding area. The roof decreases the need for air conditioning and lowers the “heat island” effect, which can cause higher outdoor temperatures in urban areas.

The store also features a state-of-the-art refrigeration system designed to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent compared with present-day refrigeration system designs. Additionally, an energy management system monitors power consumption and automatically adjusts systems to minimize energy consumption based on daylight, temperature and shopping traffic. With this customized energy management system, The Fresh Grocer location will reduce its energy consumption by 35 percent.

What’s more, solar panels will make use of renewable energy from the sun. The parking lot’s porous paving system allows storm water to permeate the paving in the lot, helping to reduce flooding and recharge ground aquifers, keeping water where it’s meant to be. Carbon dioxide sensors help to minimize the amount of outside air brought in the store while keeping fresh air at adequate levels. LED signs will save the energy demand of two small residential homes. As a final nod to sustainability, all waste generated during construction was recycled.
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