(WXYZ) — The Detroit People's Food Co-Op is getting an all-new building, but the work to get to this point has not been easy.
It's taken nearly 12 years for Malik Yakini to reach the moment of celebration.
Yakini is the driving force behind the Detroit People's Food Co-Op, which will be built on the large, vacant lot on Woodward Ave. in Detroit's North End.
“This development is important because it provides greater access to higher quality, nutrient-dense foods, many of which will be locally grown," Yakini said.
Prior to the groundbreaking, I met Yakini and his development partner, Sonya Mays, to discuss the project.
"I just couldn’t think of a better expression of a community-oriented development that just had to happen because it would improve the quality of life," Mays said.
“Detroit is a city of approximately 645,000 people, roughly 80% of which are African American, but there are no African American-owned grocery stores. So we largely have an extractive retail food economy in Detroit," Yakini added.
The North End is one area of the city where convenient access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy food options remains a real challenge for many. Yakini and Mays are anxious to see that change with this project.
Renderings of the new Co-Op show a colorful, two-story building that will serve the community in multiple ways.
There will be a grocery store on the ground floor, and incubator kitchens, and community and banquet space above.
“Malik’s vision wasn’t just to have this grocery store. It was really to have an expression, a broader expression of community empowerment," Mays said. "So, that's one of the exciting things for me, that the building is so much more than just a grocery store.”
The need in the neighborhood is real. Three times a week, Nazarene Missionary Baptist Church serves as a pick-up point for food distribution.
The project's cooperative structure will support urban farms, local growers and producers, and also allow members to benefit from its success.
“We want people, not just to shop here, but we want them to have a real sense of ownership," Mays said. "This is your grocery store, right in your neighborhood, meeting your needs.”
“We’re really trying to create a circular economy, so money isn’t stripped out of our community, but we find a way to circulate it to create jobs right in this neighborhood and to create a sense of ownership and empowerment in the neighborhood," Yakini added.
Mays is the president and CEO of Develop Detroit, and her company is rehabbing and building houses in the John R and Marston area, building up a neighborhood just blocks from the food co-op.
“Detroit’s history was just that, right? Detroit was filled with neighborhoods where you had everything you needed right there.," Mays said.
"I do think it’s really important to have these amenities right here, where you live."