A new discount supermarket will open Thursday in the $52 million Sharswood Ridge shopping center and apartment complex that is an integral part of the rebuilding of an 8-acre community that was once a 1960s-era housing project.
That total transformation of the neighborhood is expected to cost $750 million and is scheduled to be completed next year, said Kelvin A. Jeremiah, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). So far, about half of the 1,200 housing units for this entire development are completed.
The neighborhood in North Philadelphia has not had a supermarket since the riots of the 1960s, he said.
“What existed here was bodegas that didn’t offer fresh fruits and vegetables,” Jeremiah said. “The grocery store is an incredible achievement for the community. This is what the community wanted. This is a significant investment for the neighborhood.”
t is the first business to open in the complex, which will also include an Everest Urgent Care Facility, a barbecue restaurant, a Santander Bank branch, other retail outlets and a parking garage.
“There will be jobs and opportunities in the neighborhood,” Jeremiah said. “It’s part of a larger effort to bring more amenities right into the community.”
According to PHA, the shopping center and apartments are scheduled to be completed in October. It is being managed by Mosaic Development Partners, a Black-owned company, based in Philadelphia.
About 50 to-100 jobs are expected to be generated by the new businesses, yet to be opened.
Donta Rose, 28, the owner-operator of the 17,628-square foot, Grocery Outlet, grew up in North Philadelphia, and many of the 30 employees hired are from the neighborhood. Several of the workers are PHA residents.
Rose said the company has opened stores in Germantown, the Northeast and South Philadelphia. He has worked at Grocery Outlet for about a year and a half.
“Once I saw they were coming here, I thought I was the right person for the job,” Rose said. “I had experience opening stores, ordering products and our sales model of catching great deals. This is the heart of North Philadelphia and I am super comfortable with it.”
Tommie Bashem, new store growth partner at Grocery Outlet, a discount store, said that Rose’s reputation for hard work at the company helped him get identified as an owner-operator candidate.
“We have an ‘Aspiring Owner in Training’ program and we identify talent internally and externally,” Bashem said. So Rose went through the program and trained with other owner operator candidates and trained at another store. After going through an interview process, Rose was selected for the Sharswood store, Bashem said.
“We really wanted to put the best business partner in the area, who would be involved in the community and versed in the community,” Bashem said. “He is from this area, which is a huge anchor in the community.”
Grocery Outlet has 400 stores nationwide, all of which are owner operated and serve about 1.5 million shoppers a week.
In March 2015, the PHA project known as the Blumberg Apartments was demolished. By that time, the area consisted of three high-rise buildings and 15 low-rise units and had become a magnet for crime and despair.
In April 2020, PHA received a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to Jeremiah it wasn’t easy to convince financial institutions and business to invest in the area.
So in 2019, PHA opened its $45 million, 5-story headquarters, with 136,000 square-feet of space and about 500 employees at 2013 Ridge Ave.
“We haven’t seen any meaningful public investment into this community since the 1960s,” Jeremiah said. “It’s part of the reason why we put our headquarters here. It was to spur economic opportunity and employment opportunity.”
Today, this development is being financed by a complex mix of public and private financing and tax credits.
“We used to be able to get a single source funds to build a development,” Jeremiah said. “Gone are those days.”