BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's been 15 years since Howard Park had a major grocery store. That will all change Thursday when Shop-Rite opens its doors on Liberty Heights Avenue. City officials say the opening is part of a bigger plan in getting more supermarkets into the city, specifically in urban communities.
Rick Ritter has details.
Officials say food chains are finally making their way into more urban communities, something many call a game changer for the entire city.
"It can't do nothing but help," said resident Dwight Martin. "Nothing but help at all."
What's known as a "food desert" is now home to the city's largest grocery store.
"It's a necessity for the people," said resident Sylvia Alexander.
Shop-Rite's 67,000 square foot store cost roughly $20 million to build and stock, while opening up 280 jobs.
"That means a lot for that community and for a city with 8.5% unemployment," said Sage Policy Group CEO Anirban Basu.
Basu says it's a tone setter.
"Baltimore is clearly a city on the move," he said.
With a strong economic impact.
"That makes housing more available; it attracts more renters, more homeowners," Basu said.
Basu says private investors typically tend to put grocery stores near the waterfront and the Pratt Street corridor. Now they're making a comeback in urban areas.
"Not just in affluent neighborhoods but in neighborhoods in working class heritage," he said.
Officials describe the opening as an anchor, something they can build off of and add similar success to other urban areas.
"The times are changing. People are seeing Baltimore's urban markets as a real viable investment," said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.
With high end grocery stores already scattered across the suburbs, Rawlings-Blake says moves like this provide healthier food choices for additional families.
"I know it's going to make us not just a better city but a healthier city, as well," she said.
A win-win for the entire city.
"It elevates the overall quality of living and quality of life and that's exactly what you want to see in the city," Basu said.
The last major grocery store in Howard Park was back in 1999.
Officials say Shop-Rite's opening marks the 43rd supermarket in the city.
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