BLOOMINGTON — A community funding campaign is under way to end the food desert in West Bloomington. Organizers want to redevelop the plaza on the southeast corner of West Market and Howard streets.
The West Market Street Council Fund, a nonprofit account, has been opened at Illinois Prairie Community Foundation for donations to fund the goal of redeveloping the small-business plaza and putting a full-service grocery store there.
As a component fund in the foundation, the council has a non-profit fiscal sponsor, can apply for grants and accept tax-deductible investments, said the group in a news statement Tuesday.
West Bloomington advocates Arthur Haynes and Laurie Bell announced the initiative in September 2018 at the Feeding the Cities Bloomington-Normal Food Summit — a networking dialogue aimed at helping the Twin Cities better meet the food and nutritional needs of underserved communities.
"The beautiful new mural that was revealed (Sunday) at West Market Street and Morris (Avenue) just a few yards from the site of the plaza we intend to redevelop and make the home of the West Bloomington Grocery Store, gives us inspiration to achieve our mission," said Haynes, WMSC president.
The fund opened June 10 with a total of $1,025, which included $157 in remaining campaign contributions donated by Ward 4 Alderwoman Julie Emig, who was elected to the Bloomington City Council April 2.
"I support the mission of the West Market Street Council to restore West Market Street to its former glory as The Gateway of Bloomington," said Emig in the statement.
"This will enhance our city for everyone, especially welcoming Route 66 and all visiting tourists, business visitors and residents who arrive to Bloomington from the west," she added. "Downtown Bloomington, which includes a section of Ward 4 I represent, will be a direct beneficiary of West Market Street redevelopment. Most importantly, I am so happy to contribute to ending the food desert in West Bloomington."
Founding investors also included Kiasha Henry, Elisabeth Friedman, Jill Blair and Jeff Michels, Jeff and Agnes Crabill, Terry Helregel, Steve Grady, Martin Ross, Feeding the Cities and CHARM Inc.
"We have taken on the job to execute a plan to get a grocery store built as part of the plaza redevelopment, combining the two objectives into one realistic mission," said Bell, who is coordinating the project.
"The project continues to receive an outpouring of interest and community support from residents, existing West Market Street businesses and Alderman Scott Black (of) Ward 7, who represents the West Market Street neighborhood," Bell added.
The group meets at 1 p.m. every Wednesday at Rosy's Mexican Grill in the plaza at 912 W. Market St., and all are welcome to attend, said Bell.
All investment contributions for the project can be made via checks made payable to Illinois Prairie Community Foundation for WMSC and mailed to the foundation at 915 E. Washington St., Suite 2, Bloomington IL 61701.