NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — The Fresh Grocer, Drexel Hill, Pa., will operate a 49,000-square-foot supermarket in a food desert area here as part of a $103 million, 1.6-acre project that includes a community fitness center and a 1,275-space public parking facility.
WNC & Associates, Irvine, Calif., a national investor in urban renewal and affordable housing projects, has provided $10 million in New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) financing to Ferren Urban Renewal Associates for the development of the project, called the New Brunswick Wellness Plaza, in downtown New Brunswick. The project will bring more than 700 jobs to the city, officials said.
A “food desert,” which the location has been designated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is defined as an industrialized area lacking options for healthy, affordable food. The Fresh Grocer store will be the area’s only full-service supermarket. The Fresh Grocer operates seven other stores, including several in food-desert sections of Philadelphia.
The 62,000-square-foot RWJ Fitness & Wellness Center will include state-of-the-art fitness equipment, an aquatic center, and dance and fitness studios. The facility also will offer free preventative health and wellness-related community events to local residents, including healthy cooking, diabetes management, obesity prevention, and parenting.
“The NMTC program was designed to bring favorable financing to low-income communities that do not have readily available access to capital,” said David Shafer, executive vice president of WNC, who oversaw the development of the transaction, in a statement. “WNC is honored to have participated in this very important development that will bring needed employment, health services, and a full-service supermarket to New Brunswick.”
The financing was arranged through WNC National Community Development Advisors, a Community Development Enterprise (CDE). WNC collaborated with three additional CDEs to provide NMTC allocations totaling $35 million for the project. The other CDEs are CityScape Capital Group, Empowerment Reinvestment Fund, and Wells Fargo Community Development Enterprises.