DALLAS South Dallas residents are a step closer to something many take for granted: a grocery store within walking distance.

The city's Economic Development Committee this month sent the City Council a plan to fund the demolition and redevelopment of a partially vacant property. Ideally, it will be turned into a mixed-use development that includes a grocery store.

The now-empty building sits inside a swath of southern Dallas classified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a 'food desert.' The 22.5-mile stretch spans south from Loop 12 to Interstate 20 and east from Interstate 45 to Interstate 35.

According to Census data, the area is home to 27,500 residents. The University of North Texas at Dallas and Paul Quinn College are both located there. The latter has even turned its football field into an organic farm.

There's just one full-service grocery store south of Loop 12 and east of I-35 to Highway 310, the city says.Compare that to Lower Greenville in East Dallas, which has no fewer than six grocers in a four mile radius.

'It would definitely help the neighborhood to have a good store here,' said Michael Smotherman, a community advocate speaking against the project. 'We are just questioning why all the years we have tried to get this store we were told, 'No, you don't have enough rooftops.''

Those opposed are much like Smitherman: They'reall for a grocery store, but say the community has been left out of the decision-making process.

Dallas Councilman Tennell Atkins and the Economic Development Committee submitted a plan to the City Council that would provide Duncanville-based KRR Construction with $1.5 million in grant money for the grocer, plus another $2.5 million to build apartments.

The proposed development, located at the corner of Simpson Stuart and Bonnie View roads, would include a new library, an Exxon gas station and room for 22,000 square feet of neighborhood retail. The total project should cost $4.5 million and the grant dollars are contingent upon securing a contract with a national or regional grocer that lasts at least 10 years.

'I think that we, the City of Dallas, if we are going to be a great city we have to think outside the box,' Atkins said. 'We need to say, 'Here is a community, they need a grocery store, whatever we can do to help that community get a grocery store, that's what we need to do.''

The plan passed out of committee earlier this month. If approved by the Council, construction would ideally wrap up within three years.


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