FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - City officials with the Redevelopment Commission announced a "food and beverage" business is expected to be built at the Southtown Crossing Centre in Fort Wayne.
During a Redevelopment Commission meeting on Monday, city officials said a developer called Elia Group is in the process of purchasing property at the Southtown Crossing Centre, located at 7800 S. Anthony Boulevard. The said the property is next to Taco Bell, and would be a "food and beverage" business. City officials said they were not allowed to disclose the name of the business, due to the agreement.
City officials approved a purchase agreement with the developer Monday evening. The agreement was signed on April 20th, a city official said, and the developer has 120 days to review the property for any environmental concerns.
Once the review is finished, the Redevelopment Commission and the developer are expected to close on the deal, officials added.
Fort Wayne's NBC News talked with Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, who oversees the area, to learn more about her thoughts on this announcement.
"I feel like this is what we have been working for, both the administration and myself, and all of the people working together, and I just can't wait until we reveal who the end user will be," said Councilwoman Tucker.
Councilwoman Tucker said the southeast side of Fort Wayne has historically been considered a food desert. She said the community lacks grocery stores that are able to provide fresh produce and nutritious food items.
Tucker said if the mystery tenant follows through, it would be a first step in addressing the food desert issue, and could attract other businesses to the area. The Councilwoman added that the mystery tenant could also attract people from other parts of Fort Wayne to the community as well.
"Being able to have amenities that many from outside the community can come down and support as well," said Tucker. "It just helps create the growth for any business investment that's going on in southeast Fort Wayne."
Fort Wayne's NBC News also talked with Pastor Raymond Dix of the Pilgrim Baptist Church in Fort Wayne. He said people in the southeast side of Fort Wayne also want more job opportunities, and the ability to earn and spend money in their own community.
"The more times a dollar turns over in a neighborhood, we all know the statistics. It's much better for the economic health of that neighborhood."
Larry Gist, the president of the NAACP Chapter of Fort Wayne said "south side of town is lacking, food is lacking. You really have to travel to get fresh vegetables. We have a Walmart and Kroger over in this area, but still, people, if they have to catch a bus or a ride, it's still not in their community."
Gist added "when you live in a food desert, you can't just go out and get something quick. You have to go to a gas station and pay that high price. You can pay a quart of milk and pay the same price of a half gallon of milk at a grocery store. It's not a cost saving, it's more expenses for these families."
Tameko Billingsley, who lives in the southeast side of Fort Wayne, said she's hopeful about the announcement. Unless the mystery tenant will offer healthier foods, she said, many families will continue to deal with the same struggles.
"If you bring another high price fast food restaurant over here, that doesn't do our community any good. It doesn't do our kids any good. That doesn't help our obesity problems on this side of town, as though they say we have. It doesn't help the bad eating habits that they say our children have over here on the southeast side, but if you give us better options, and better quality, and more affordable products, it will make a difference."