Community Metro Louisville

After years of trying, a local nonprofit has a site for its cooperative grocery. The group is now looking for funds — including from the city — to develop and operate the Louisville Community Grocery. Co-founder Cassia Herron said that will take about $12 million.

On Wednesday the Community Foundation of Louisville, a philanthropy group, announced it gifted about an acre of vacant land in Smoketown to the Louisville Alliance for Community Economics, or LACE. Another acre on the property was given to an affordable housing group.

LACE plans to use the lot to create the Louisville Community Grocery, which aims to close gaps in food accessibility. If LACE meets its fundraising goal, groundbreaking could begin by the end of 2023.

Herron said the organization is trying again to secure millions in city funding.

Plans for the grocery emerged in 2015 and the effort seemed poised to receive a boost in 2020 when the Louisville Metro Government announced $3.5 million in funding for a grocery in an underserved area. Herron and Louisville Metro Council President David James, a Democrat who represents District 6, said that summer they believed the allocation was intended for the Louisville Community Grocery.

After a bidding process, LACE won out, and the group was in talks with the city to actualize the plan. But negotiations for the project fell through earlier this year. In January, a lawyer for the city said LACE missed deadlines, including one for having control of a property to create the store. Representatives for LACE responded with an op-ed accusing the city of undermining their proposal.

Despite the end of those discussions, LACE is still looking to acquire the funding. The city issued another request for proposals in the spring. The application period closed in early April, more than a month before the nonprofit acquired the deed for the property near the intersection of Jackson and Finzer.

“We have reapplied and we have had an interview with Metro. So we’ll see,” Herron said.

Louisville Metro Government procurement analyst Latrice Smith confirmed in an email that LACE had submitted a bid along with two other groups: Garden Girl Foods and Sponsor 4 Success. She said the proposals were still being considered.

Herron said LACE is also looking to get both corporate sponsors and community members involved. They currently have over 500 member-owners on board, she said, which is about a quarter of their goal.

“Ownership alone isn’t going to build a store. But what ownership does do is it gives the community a seat at the table,” Herron said.

Herron estimated the group could raise $300,000 through ownership fees.

Jacob is WFPL's Business and Development Reporter.