Groundbreaking set for NE 36th and Lincoln grocery store
A dream that started with former Councilwoman Willa Johnson will become a reality on Oct.1, when ground is broken for a new Homeland grocery store in northeast Oklahoma City.
The site at NE 36th Street and N. Lincoln Boulevard will be home to a MAPS 3 senior wellness center, operated by Langston University and a 30,000-square-foot Homeland store.
The Oct. 1 event is to celebrate the excitement shared by the city, the Alliance for Economic Development, and the neighborhood to site a new full-service grocery store in the area. A groundbreaking for the wellness center will be held at a later date.
The Alliance is the developer and is building the parking lot for the store and the wellness center. The store will be designed by Tulsa-based Architects Collective and is being constructed by Oklahoma City-based CMSWillowbrook. Johnson and Associates is the project’s civil engineer and is working on the entire site.
Since 1998, Alliance President Cathy O’Connor has overseen the puzzle to get the grocery store, which included putting together the right site, the best finance partners and a good store operator.
“The lack of a full-service grocery store has been something we needed to try and solve, but we had to get all the pieces to come together,” she said. “Frankly, those pieces clicked together this time.”
The deal started with a land swap with the State Commissioners of the Land Office. O’Connor praised the office for its cooperation.
The Alliance is working with Arkansas-based Heartland Renaissance Fund and U.S. Bank to get New Market Tax Credits. National Cooperative Bank is the lender and works with co-ops and has a specialty in the grocery industry. The City of Oklahoma City created a Tax Increment Finance District for the site and OG&E sold a small piece of land to the Alliance to complete the site and is diligently working to move some utility lines.
“U.S. Bank and Heartland were both very impressed by the project, the overall community support and the economic impact, with the store creating 75 jobs,” said O’Connor. “This will be the first new investment of this scale in northeast Oklahoma City in a very, very long time. Both entities have sent representatives here and we’ve done virtual tours. They were very impressed by Oklahoma City and the council’s leadership on this.”
The project is also getting a loan from MetaFund’s new Impact Accelerator. Launched in May, the Accelerator is a nonprofit intermediary managed by MetaFund that uses philanthropic capital to provide flexible loans and technical assistance to innovative, mission-driven nonprofit and for-profit organizations. The Impact Accelerator is backed through a partnership with the Arnall Family Foundation, the Inasmuch Foundation and the Potts Family Foundation.
Homeland President and CEO Marc Jones said the Oklahoma City- headquartered, employee-owned company is excited to bring such a great asset to the city and has been committed since 2016 to figuring out how to make that happen. He and O’Connor looked at several sites before deciding on the 36th and Lincoln location.
He said the store will likely be the most diverse customer base the company has, with neighbors, state capitol employees, area warehouse employees and downtown residents coming to the store.
“This is a really interesting business opportunity,” he said.
For Homeland, this is only the beginning of its work, explained Jones. As construction progresses, there will be community meetings to discuss what the store should offer and what murals should be on the building. There will be hiring events as well to fill 75 positions with the best people.
And by fall 2021, Homeland will be operating a new store, which will have a bakery, a deli, a butcher and a pharmacy.
Jones said he commends O’Connor and the City of Oklahoma City for its perseverance on the project.
“It was incredible to see so many people work together for the good of the community,” said Jones. “It will create an impact in a part of town that needed a positive impact.”