Delray Beach neighbors concerned about 'food desert'

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. - C.J. Thomas of Delray Beach is raising his 7-month-old in the W. Atlantic Ave. neighborhood without easy access to fresh food.   "There's no store here, I always hated that," said Thomas.  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the area's many convenience stores don't cut it for the 1,500 households in the W. Atlantic census tract.  

One-fifth are below the poverty line.   Twelve percent have no car.  

Thomas is a "lucky one" in this "food desert."  

"I borrow my grandfather's truck and we drive to the store," said Thomas.  

But now, neighborhood organizer Joycelyn Patrick dreams of a desert oasis.   

On Thursday night, the Community Redevelopment Agency voted on three projects that have offices, stores, restaurants, and space for a grocery store.  

"I have been waiting for this about forty years," said Patrick. "I would like for it to be a nationally recognized chain."  

The board chose a design called Equity Enterprises USA.   Developers will invest $35 million, create 267 jobs and ask for no tax incentives.   They guarantee a smaller Haitian grocer, but admit nothing is imminent with a big name.  

"I can't promise anything. I promise I'll give them the space, how's that? I promise to try," said developer Bob Currie.  

After 40 years, the space from SW 6th Ave. to SW 8th won't be empty.  

Patrick said she's willing to wait for a guarantee on groceries.   

"I feel like the stores will work with us, based on what the community needs and what the community has requested," said Patrick.  

But the CRA said it could be a challenge to fit in a large-scale grocery store because Equity has guaranteed to relocate other, local businesses to the space.  

The food desert isn't necessarily gone just yet.

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