CHICAGO-Construction could begin next year on a long-awaited grocery store in the Englewood neighborhood, while an adjacent three-building, 32,000-sf retail center could begin to rise in the 6900 and 7000 blocks of S. Ashland Avenue by year’s end. More than $1.9 million in tax increment financing for the two projects, which total a combined $18.2 million was endorsed Tuesday by the community development commission.

A 62,000-sf Food 4 Less store on the southern 4.9 acres of the two-block strip on the east side of Ashland Avenue, the site of a Chicago Transit Authority bus barn until 1998. The retail center on 2.5 acres to the north already is 70% leased, says Audrey Mathis of the department of planning and development.

The project is nearly two years in the works, Mathis notes. A $2.3-million land sale was approved by the city council in November 2002, she adds, but the land was more contaminated than first thought. Tax increment financing assistance will help pay environmental cleanup and additional construction costs, she says.

“The environmental remediation of the barn site is a formidable barrier to growth in this area,” says Beth McGuire, also of the department of planning and development. “This plan is very much needed to assist in the revitalization of the commercial strip in this area.”

Rev. Willard Payton, pastor of the New Birth Church of God and Christ and New Birth Community Center, says the nearest grocery stores are at 63rd Street and Parnell Avenue as well as 62nd Street and Western Avenue, both nearly two miles away. His group developed an 84-unit multifamily rental building for seniors at 1450 W. 69th St.

“The Englewood community has been asking for four years for a grocery store and retail,” says 17th Ward Alderman Latasha Thomas.

Finch, LP, developer of the 32,000-sf retail center, has a letter of interest in Bank One to help finance the $6.4-million project. “The project is aggressively ready to begin,” Mathis adds.

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