The City of Norcross’ Department of Economic Development is exploring the feasibility of a food-focused community destination that will serve as a local hub for a farmers market and other food-related businesses. The economic development department has commissioned Taproot, a placemaking consulting firm that specializes in food-oriented economic development, to conduct a feasibility study to determine the type of local food-enterprise the city could support. With the help of an experienced team of economic and community development consultants, the City’s vision is to create a market center that will improve the community’s access to fresh produce and groceries, further stimulate local investment in the food market, and draw visitors from the around the metro area.
Starting this week, Taproot will begin to conduct stakeholder outreach to local residents, leaders, and food industry experts to gain some perspective on the food needs and desires that the community may wish to see in a food destination. During the second phase, the economic development team and Taproot will visit several sites to determine the feasibility of the size and scope of the market. In the final phase, the team will unveil a concept plan.
According to the Economic Development Coordinator Tara Smith, access to healthy and affordable food is becoming a major concern for many residents of Norcross. “Currently, the city lacks a traditional grocery store so we need to find a solution to provide residents with access to affordable and healthy food, which is a basic need. It would be great if we had something similar to Dekalb Farmers Market in Decatur or even a Findlay Market in Cincinnati which has a community kitchen, an incubator space for entrepreneurs and provides a real memorable consumer experience.”
To qualify as a “low-access community,” or Food Desert as its often referred to, at least 500 people or at least 33 percent of the census tract’s population must reside more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. With an estimated population of 17,000, Norcross is 2.8 miles to the closest Publix grocery store, 3 miles to the closest Aldi, and 4 miles to the closest Walmart Grocery Store. The locations considered for the new market space will bring fresh produce and groceries within a mile of most residents and have a long lasting positive effect on community health.
Mayor Craig Newton says that this is not only a food-issue, but an economic issue that we need to address. “Building a food network from within the city would fill the food gap that some residents are experiencing, as well as providing local economic opportunities,” he said. Typically, building the local food movement in such a way has strong positive economic benefits. Farmers’ markets encourage investment in local firms, regional farmlands, and keeps consumer dollars local. Mayor Newton went on to state that “farmers markets often provide an entrepreneurial platform, inspire creative enterprise, foster community involvement and cohesiveness, and greatly increases employment options. This would be a huge win for Norcross.”
The team is hoping to tap into the unique cultural aspects of Norcross with a year-round, indoor, and possibly an outdoor component, and believes there is no better way to do it than to bring people together around food.
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