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College students push for new grocery store near Uptown Normal

Bloomington-Normal college students, from left, Morgan Taylor, Jack Abraham, and Anthony Crispin. They're working to bring a grocery store to the Uptown Normal area.
Ryan Denham
/
WGLT
Bloomington-Normal college students, from left, Morgan Taylor, Jack Abraham, and Anthony Crispin. They're working to bring a grocery store to the Uptown Normal area.

A group of Bloomington-Normal college students is trying once again to bring a grocery store to the Uptown Normal area.

They’ve been researching the issue for about six months and are getting ready to send out a survey to Illinois State University students and those who live near Uptown and may be frustrated with prices at the nearby CVS or having to drive, bus, or walk to Walmart or Jewel or Schnucks.

They’re trying to quantify the need, said Anthony Crispin, a sophomore at Heartland Community College who's been researching grocery stores in other downtown college towns. He wrote the survey going out this month.

“What is your access to transit? What is your monthly grocery budget? Would you be willing to sacrifice price for convenience? Things like that,” Crispin said. “We want to really nail down how financially viable something like this would be.”

It’s more than just a student issue, said Jack Abraham, an ISU junior who’s also a McLean County Board member.

“We already think the need is there. We think a project like this would be important. Students need food access, and right now they don’t really have that unless they drive 2 miles away,” Abraham said.

Morgan Taylor, an ISU junior and another group organizer, said they’ve met with Town of Normal administrators and the mayor. (Taylor, Abraham, and Crispin are all originally from Bloomington-Normal.)

“(Town leaders) do recognize that they probably will have to subsidize some rent or something like that to make it possible. The town is super willing to work with us on this issue. I’m feeling positive that this is something that can get done,” Taylor said.

The possibility of a grocery store has come up during public feedback sessions related to Uptown South, south of the train tracks.

This is certainly not the first time an Uptown grocery has been considered.

The Town itself paid for a feasibility study nine years ago, as the Green Top Grocery co-op was trying decide where to locate. Green Top considered locations inside the College Avenue parking deck and south of the tracks. A former Green Top board member says the town preferred the parking deck, but that presented delivery, signage, and ramped parking issues.

“South of the tracks wouldn’t have had those issues, but the town wasn’t ready to develop that space yet,” former Green Top board member Jerica Etheridge told WGLT. “So while we had some productive conversations with the town, ultimately their priority was filling the space in the parking garage, and it wasn’t the best location for us when all the factors were compared across all potential locations.”

Ultimately, Green Top chose to locate instead on Washington Street in Bloomington.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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