(Photo via facebook.com/KensingtonCommFoodCoop/)
It pays to befriend your local politician.
Kensington Community Food Co-op (KCFC) knows. Last week, the 780-member, community-owned grocery store announced its receipt of a $350,000 grant from the City of Philadelphia — effectively cutting its funding gap in half and bumping up its estimated open date — thanks to help from Councilman Mark Squilla and the Department of Commerce.
“It’s definitely a big deal,” said Peter Frank, VP of KCFC and executive director of Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance.
The money came from the Cultural Corridor Fund left over from the Street administration and was managed via PIDC’s Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development. Squilla, in whose district the co-op falls, has been supportive of the co-op’s development for a while and is a member, confirmed his legislative aide, Sean McMonagle. Before investing city dollars, though, he needed to know the project would definitely be moving forward.
“To invest that kind of money, the city wanted to be sure … we were in a place where we can raise the remaining funds and have the appropriate plans in place to put to it good use,” Frank said.
Indeed, KCFC is “shovel-ready.” The group has been working with an architect for the past eight months and has design plans in place, which are currently being reviewed by the city, according to Frank. It’s also doubling down on its member loans fundraising campaign until Nov. 15, with the goal of raising an additional $133,000.
If it does, and if no major roadblocks pop up, Frank said the group can start construction in early 2017 and possibly open that summer.
“We’re so far along that we’re extremely confident that we will,” he said.
Plans for the co-op started in 2008. While eight-plus years may seem like a long time to get a business off the ground, Frank said it’s just the reality of opening a competitively minded, high-quality grocery store, which KCFC aims to be. Equipment, labor and construction is expensive no matter where the money is coming from.
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“When you compare starting a grocery store from private investors compared to community investors,” he said, “this is fairly normal.”
The area surrounding KCFC is technically not a food desert — discount supermarket Save-A-Lot is three blocks away. But supporters have defended the location at Lehigh Avenue, Frankford Avenue and Coral Street in the past because of its proximity to impoverished neighborhoods north of Lehigh with no other access to fresh, high-quality food, its access to parking and its visibility. The city clearly feels the same way.-30-
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