A high-end grocer plans to build in one of Chicago's most notorious and violent neighborhoods.
Whole Foods Market will open a store near Kennedy King College in Englewood in 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office announced.
The 18,000-square-foot grocery store, slated to be built on 63rd and Halsted, aims to provide access to fresh, natural and, importantly, affordable food for area residents. It will be the first grocery store in the 16th Ward in at least 30 years.
“I have worked with Whole Foods Market for the last year and a half to invest in one of our oldest neighborhoods," Emanuel said, "and address a pressing need for fresh, healthy food, and I’m proud to announce this wonderful new facility that will help meet this need while creating a strong economic anchor in this community."
When asked why Whole Foods picked Englewood, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city and the country, chains CEO Walter Robb said the quick answer is because Emanuel asked for it. The long answer is part of a bigger commitment to make healthy food available in food deserts.
“We believe that fresh, healthy food choices along with information and education about food should be accessible for all communities," Robb said. "We hope that our efforts on Chicago’s South Side and in other communities across the country, combined with the work of others, will help make a meaningful impact on the health of our nation.”
The store says it plans to work with the community and promises to make its high-quality food affordable and accessible.
Englewood has long been associated with crime. Harper High School, located in the neighborhood, was featured on a two-part "This American Life" series focused on Chicago violence after 29 current or former students were shot and eight of them killed in a year.
While Sen. Mark Kirk and Rep. Bobby Rush toured the neighborhood last week, a 23-year-old man was wounded by gunfire near a school.
"It's not a shock," Rush said after learning of the shooting. "This happens whether or not I'm in the neighborhood, whether or not Sen. Kirk is in the neighborhood."
Emanuel's office said Englewood is one of seven neighborhoods chosen for the mayor's Chicago Neighborhoods Now program to invest in communities and help establish "one of the nation’s largest urban agricultural districts, expanding industrial and housing opportunities, and coordinating open space development throughout the community."
The location will bring an estimated 100 jobs to the area, Emanuel's office said.
Whole Foods hopes it's a win for business too. Since the location is close to Interstate 94 and situation among multiple neighborhoods, Whole Foods hopes that if they build it they will come.