Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced a $1 million loan from the Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI) to the Circle Food Store, the historic property at the corner of North Claiborne and St. Bernard avenues.
According to a statement from Landrieu's office, the total renovation costs to re-open are $9.2 million — the $1 million loan has a forgivable amount of $500,000, and will allow the store to begin its re-opening process. The store will create an estimated 75 jobs.
The Circle Food Store, first opened in 1938, has served as a community anchor — not just for fresh foods and produce, but as a pharmacy and doctor's office, and a place to buy school uniforms and other essentials. It was devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods in 2005. Photos taken from the I 10 Claiborne overpass showing the neighborhood landmark surrounded by floodwaters became defining images of Katrina's impact. Dwayne Boudreaux, who took over the store in 1991, is still on board to open.
A number of community groups have demanded the 7th Ward/Treme institution return to the neighborhood, and a weekly farmers market opened in its adjacent parking lot. Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business and its architecture program City Center had recently completed studies and design plans for its comeback. In 2009, the market also received a $100,000 economic development fund grant.
The FFRI launched in March 2011 and will reward up to $14 million in low-cost, flexible financing to retailers looking to expand affordable fresh food options in under-served neighborhoods. The project is financed by $7 million in Disaster Community Development Block Grant funds, matched by the Hope Enterprise Corporation (totaling $14 million in FFRI funds). The city has also partnered with national fresh food organization The Food Trust.
Vendors who want to apply for FFRI funds must plan to open "a self-service supermarket or other grocery retail outlet primarily selling fresh produce, seafood, meat, dairy and other groceries; renovate and substantially improve a store’s ability to stock and sell a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables; or develop a real estate project that will lease space to a grocery retail tenant." More information here.