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Louisville Community Grocery close to securing millions in city funding

An acre of vacant Smoketown property was gifted to a nonprofit aiming to open the Louisville Community Grocery.
Jacob Munoz
LPM News
An acre of vacant Smoketown property was gifted to a nonprofit aiming to open the Louisville Community Grocery.

Efforts to establish a grocery store in Smoketown could receive a big boost this month.

Metro Council’s Budget Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on recommending an agreement that would approve $3.5 million in funding for the Louisville Community Grocery cooperative.

Signed by city officials and grocery leaders, the letter of intent sets deadlines for the project, including breaking ground by April 2024 and opening that October.

The resolution approving the agreement is sponsored by Council Members Jecorey Arthur, a Democrat who represents Smoketown and other neighborhoods in District 4, and Bill Hollander, a Democrat who represents District 9.

If cleared by the committee, the plan would then head to the full Metro Council for a vote, which could take place next Thursday.

The Louisville Community Grocery is expected to be built on an acre of vacant land in Smoketown, formerly the site of a Louisville Slugger production facility, on the corner of Finzer St. and S Jackson St.

Plans for the project began in 2015. Leaders of the grocery say one of their goals is to fill a gap in food access among Louisville residents.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Access Research Atlas, which uses data from 2019, low-income residents near the grocery’s anticipated location may live more than a mile away from a supermarket.

Randall Webber is a former board president of the Louisville Association for Cooperative Economics, a nonprofit helping develop the store. At the organization’s annual owners’ meeting Tuesday, he said the grocery could also appeal to other residents, including those in the nearby Paristown neighborhood and those who work in the city’s hospital district close to downtown.

“We're here to serve low-income, urban-core neighborhoods like Smoketown. Incidentally, I’m a Smoketown resident. But while they are our priority, they're not our only customer base,” Webber said.

The grocery is structured as a cooperative, offering residents and workers ownership of the business through shares. Leaders of the project said they have a goal of having 2,000 owners and are currently near 600.

Nathan Hernandez, a LACE board member, said the ownership goal has two purposes.

“We want to have 2,000 owners before the store opens. That's part of the capital campaign. But it's also just about building a loyalty base that will be shopping at the grocery store,” Hernandez said after the meeting.

The city’s pending agreement with the Louisville Community Grocery comes nearly a year after previous talks to secure the funding fell through.

In June, the Community Foundation of Louisville awarded an acre of a Smoketown lot to LACE. A month later, the city picked LACE again for funding to bring a grocery store to an underserved community.

Around two dozen people attended the meeting Tuesday evening, where leaders for the project discussed progress and goals for opening the store.

They said they expect to spend nearly $8 million on construction and equipment needs, though leaders said those figures could change. As of Wednesday, a total estimated cost for opening the grocery was not available.

Leaders also said they plan to establish an outdoor community space next to the store, and that groundbreaking on the site is expected for 2023, before the letter of intent’s scheduled deadline.

This story may be updated.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.