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A small grocer is coming to West Baltimore’s Poppleton neighborhood

A small grocery store will anchor a large mixed-use project in an area considered a food desert in West Baltimore’s Poppleton neighborhood, the developer announced.

La Cité Development has reached an agreement with Market Fresh Gourmet to open an 8,000-square-foot grocery store at its Center\West project just north of the University of Maryland BioPark and west of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The neighborhood has limited access to affordable and nutritious food.

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Market Fresh, a minority-owned business based in Prince George’s County’s Capitol Heights, will offer fresh and prepared foods, along with workforce development programs and classes and special events for the neighborhood.

The store will be the brand’s first in the city. The Baltimore Development Corp. worked with the grocer to find the location and is helping the business expand in Baltimore, said Colin Tarbert, BDC’s president and CEO, in the announcement.

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The business is backed by the Arctaris Impact Fund, which focuses on building sustainable communities in the city.

A small grocery store will take the ground floor space of this apartment building in the Center\West development in West Baltimore's Poppleton neighborhood, long considered a food desert.
A small grocery store will take the ground floor space of this apartment building in the Center\West development in West Baltimore's Poppleton neighborhood, long considered a food desert. (Meredith Cohn/Baltimore Sun)

Construction is expected to start this spring on the ground-floor space in an apartment building on the northwest corner of Fayette and Schroeder streets.

La Cité has plans to redevelop nearly 33 acres in the area, eventually constructing 1,800 units of a mix of affordable and market-rate housing in four phases. Two five-story apartment buildings with 262 units were completed last year after long delays and began leasing.

La Cité's plans have been expected to spark a long-awaited renaissance in the struggling neighborhood but have hit snags. Developers cut the ribbon on the two new apartment buildings in November 2018, but the buildings remained closed for months afterward. Developers had blamed delays on drawn-out negotiations with insurers to cover repairs from extensive interior water damage in the buildings before they were completed.

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The city was responsible for about $10 million in bonds already sold as part of a $58 million tax increment financing deal to pay for infrastructure work for the massive $800 million project, launched in 2005.

Officials initially blamed the recession and weak recovery that reduced demand and made financing difficult.

This week, Mayor Brandon Scott welcomed the addition of a grocery store, saying Poppleton residents “deserve better.”

“This Center\West venture helps address the food desert predicament in Southwest Baltimore by expanding access to healthy food while also providing job opportunities to local residents,” Scott said.

Dan Bythewood Jr., president and managing partner of La Cité Development, promised additional investment in the area to bring in more partners like Market Fresh.

As other phases of the Center\West project open, the grocer expects to expand in size.

The store plans not only to recruit workers from the neighborhood but also to sell local products and help those businesses “gain exposure and build their brands,” said Mario Minor, CEO of the grocer, which is opening its first store this year.

Besides supplying fresh food, the grocer’s presence should boost real estate values in Poppleton, said City Council President Nick Mosby.

“This is truly great news coming this spring for our pandemic-weary residents,” Mosby said in an announcement.

Baltimore Sun reporter Meredith Cohn contributed to this article.

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