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Local residents aren’t sold on the Bronzeville Mariano’s

by Vanessa Beene
May 14, 2014


Vanessa Beene/ MEDILL

Alderman Will Burns (4th Ward) showed his support of the Mariano's Fresh Market in Bronzeville at the Chicago Housing Authority meeting Wednesday

Bronzeville public housing residents clashed with members of a local neighborhood association during a Chicago Housing Authority board meeting Wednesday over plans for a Mariano’s Fresh Market in their community.

While members of the Bronzeville Alliance testified that the addition of the grocery store chain would be beneficial to the community, others loudly objected to the overall development process, saying that the community has been ill informed and left out of the planning.

Claudice Ware, president of the Local Advisory Council for the Ida B. Wells Housing Project testified that the CHA’s failure to include the residents was a “slap in the face.”

“Shame on you,” she said to CHA commissioners as the room erupted in applause.

Leonard McGee, local resident and founding member of the Bronzeville Alliance stood in support of the development, citing Bronzeville as an area that is “woefully lacking fresh food opportunities.”

The proposed location at 39th Street and Martin Luther King Drive is where the Ida B. Wells housing projects stood prior to its demolition in August 2008. The deal is worth an estimated $5.5 million. CHA Chief Housing Officer Ellen Sahli proposed the sale of approximately 8.2 of the 47 vacant acres in order to build the 74,000-square-foot supermarket.

“We believe Mariano’s will be a tremendous benefit both to public housing residents and the larger community,” Sahli said.

But Chicago Housing Authority Commissioner Francine Washington said, “The residents weren’t aware, and I don’t like the process.”

Ald. Will Burns (4th Ward) said he supports the construction, slated to begin sometime next year, describing the project as “critical.” He said more retail businesses in the area would bring the community together.

Of the eight Chicago Housing Authority commissioners, only three were present at the meeting: Commissioner Rodrigo A. Sierra, Commissioner John G. Markowski, and Commissioner Francine Washington.

Due to lack of a quorum, voting on the sale was postponed until next Tuesday’s full board meeting.