Evans Center Groundbreaking Prepares for Grocery Store in Food Desert

18 December 2017

Evans Center ground break FCLF staffA recent groundbreaking for the future Evans Center in Brevard County drew more than 150 local residents and community leaders who are looking forward to having this grocery store, health clinic, and community center in their low-income community.

Florida Community Loan Fund has provided financing for the Evans Center, and FCLF staff Ignacio Esteban (CEO) and Cindy Ross (Community Development Loan Officer) attended the groundbreaking.

“FCLF takes seriously our commitment to improve the whole community,” said Ignacio Esteban, FCLF CEO. “We admire the work of BNDC and are honored to assist in their effort to make the Evans Center a place for residents to once again be able to buy fresh foods and, for the first time, have access to quality affordable healthcare.”

An article announcing the groundbreaking appeared in Florida Today. Here is a link, and the text of the article appears below.
Photos of the groundbreaking event are on FCLF’s Flickr Page, Evans Center Album, and on Florida Today website.
Learn more about the Evans Center on FCLF.org Meet Our Borrowers, and at www.evanscenter.org.

Text from Florida Today article:

Groundbreaking set for Evans Center to serve low-income Palm Bay, Melbourne neighborhoods
11/28/2017, Rick Neale, Florida Today

When James Bartell moved to Melbourne in 1975, he shopped for groceries two or three times a week at Evans Market, an anchor business in the predominantly African-American neighborhoods of northeast Palm Bay and south Melbourne. "He had a variety of things. He had his own butcher shop there. He had dairy products. He had dry goods," Bartell recalled. "The store was nice and clean. After he passed, the store started to deteriorate — and it became a haven for drug dealers and things like that," he said.

Today, this region along the Palm Bay-Melbourne border is considered a "food desert" by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A food desert is a low-income census tract where at least 500 people, or 33 percent of the population, lives at least 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.

Plans to create a new Evans grocery store started gaining steam back in 2009, when the Powell Subdivision Neighborhood Watch and former Congregations for Community Action pursued the idea. Excavators tore down the asbestos-ridden building in 2012, years after the shabby structure had racked up nearly $500,000 in code violation liens. Evans Center, Inc. — a nonprofit led by Bartell as board president — bought the vacant 0.8-acre lot from the city of Palm Bay for $10,000 last December.

Saturday, a groundbreaking ceremony for a future nonprofit food store takes place at 10 a.m. at 1361 Florida Ave. N.E. in Palm Bay. MH Williams Construction Group will build the new structure at cost, and the market may open by late summer, said Lynn Brockwell-Carey, project manager. Plans call for construction of a $1.5 million facility (including furnishings and inventory) that will house a 3,200-square-foot neighborhood market, a 1,000-square-foot Brevard Health Alliance clinic, and a 1,700-square-foot community room. The latter will host youth job training services and classes on parental training.

"It's about healthy living. Whether that be having access now to fresh foods, produce and meats in the corner market, or preventative or sick care at the clinic," Brockwell-Carey said. She is executive director of the Brevard Neighborhood Development Coalition. "And then in the classroom space, there'll be great opportunity for all kind of life enrichment classes. That'll include classes related to healthy living," she said.

Roosevelt “Ross” Evans opened his market in 1965 at the corner of Florida Avenue and Randolph Street, which was later renamed Pelham Street. "Evans Supermarket was also an important community gathering spot. Elderly residents could easily walk to the store to pick up fresh meat or a box of salt without the expense and hassle of finding transportation to stores farther away. Mr. Evans even made sure that the children waiting at his store for the school bus had done their homework!" the Evans Center, Inc. website states.

The new Evans Center will serve the surrounding Driskell Heights and nearby Powell subdivisions. A farmers market operated at the site during recent months. The future market will employ a full-time retail manager, two part-time assistant managers, and four or five teenagers from the community, Brockwell-Carey said. "We're real excited about it as a way to help kids that live directly in that area — who have very little access to places where they can get that critical first job — to learn about the grocery business and strong work ethics. And how to be leaders in their community," she said.

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