A new strip mall in downtown Lebanon will bring healthy food to the neighborhood thanks to a popular tax-credit program.
Officials with the Community First Fund, Lancaster County-based Monarch Enterprise Inc., together with city and county leaders, on Thursday announced a $5.5 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) allocation from Community First Fund for the construction of what’s being called the Partridge Street Redevelopment Project.
The project will feature a national retail store and a restaurant, but the centerpiece of the development will be a 13,000 square-foot grocery store.
That’s critical, Community First officials said, as the neighborhood has been designated a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture due to its lack of access to full-service grocery stores with healthy food options. USDA defines a food desert as a low-income area where a substantial share of residents live more than 1 mile from a supermarket or large grocery store.
“Providing access to a grocery store and healthy foods is a critical issue in underserved communities,” Community First CEO Dan Betancourt said.
“This project will help make Lebanon a better and healthier place for low income individuals to live and prosper. We are proud to be assisting (Monarch President) Aaron Camara with this project.”
Construction is expected to begin later this year. The store operator’s name has not yet been released.
The NMTC program is directed by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, with the credits allocated by local Community Development Entities such as Lancaster-based Community First.
According to the U.S. Treasury Department, “the NMTC Program incentivizes community development and economic growth through the use of tax credits that attract private investment to distressed communities.”
The funds can be used for construction or major improvement of a commercial building in areas where at least 20 percent of the community lives at or below the poverty rates.
The new shopping center will be built on a 3.25 acre tract of land which Monarch purchased earlier this year from the City of Lebanon. Bounded by a railroad and overpasses, the site formerly was occupied by run-down row houses.