Education and Employment Center, Grocery Story, Retail Outlets to help Revitalize Central Des Moines in Former Top Value Foods Location
Jan. 24, 2012
Plans for a new grocery store and a workforce training, education and employment center, led by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) and CDT Investment, LLC, an investment group based in the Quad Cities, received approval from the Des Moines City Council Monday, January 23, 2012, and the organizations are moving forward to open their enterprises in mid 2012.
The plan brings to central Des Moines one of the very first centers of its kind in the nation that will offer many workforce support services, help clients re-engage with educational opportunities and provide on-the-job training in a retail services setting. The workforce component, called the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, a grocery store and other retail outlets will be located in the former Top Value Foods supermarket at 801 University Ave. in Des Moines.
The partnership will provide solutions to three crucial needs that have been identified for the area:
- Grocery and retail services
- Education and workforce training
- Employment opportunities
The area has been without a grocery store since the Top Value Foods store closed in 2004. The workforce training and employment services center brings needed services to an area of the city where job training and family services are being counted on to help revitalize the neighborhood and provide needed support.
Education and employment center to offer job placement, training, access to educators
The Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families builds on the dream of Evelyn K. Davis, the late Des Moines civil rights and community leader and founder of Tiny Tots Early Learning Center. She envisioned a center that focused on helping people gain employment through on-the-job training programs that are supported by local employers. The 12,000 square-foot center will include multiple services for the community to match training opportunities with support services. DMACC will coordinate the workforce and educational training programs and work with corporations to bring job training programs to the center for applicants. The center is targeting a summer 2012 opening.
"This center has the potential to change the entire dynamic in the heart of Des Moines," says J. Barry Griswell, CEO of the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. "New jobs, job training and the re-engagement with education will help people obtain and retain family sustaining wages."
Clients of the center will find an integrated program of services, including direct job placement assistance, social, family and workforce support services, training and access to educators all in one location. The center's staff also will work with other community-based organizations to offer clients access to assistance programs. Advisors at the center will work closely with each client to make sure they are enrolling in the education, training and support service benefits they are eligible to receive. Prior research shows that having access to these services in one location is especially crucial in the heart of the city due to transportation issues.
Access to education and job training is a key part of most employment opportunities. DMACC will have a key role in giving participants a second chance at education and training opportunities. The center will be located directly north of the DMACC Urban Campus in Des Moines.
"This initiative offers a great opportunity to bring together unique workforce services and provide jobs under one roof," says Rob Denson, president of DMACC. "A number of organizations and people in the community have stepped up to make this happen. We are pleased to be part of such an important program to help our community and its residents."
The center staff also will connect individuals with employment through corporations that will have work space at the facility. A work center model will allow an employer to hire a candidate, provide on-the-job training and manage a probationary employment period all within the workforce center facility. Building skills and confidence of clients prior to placement in the regular work environment dramatically increases their rate of success in the workplace and likelihood of maintaining long-term, gainful employment, says Denson.
Grocery store, retail outlets bring needed boost to region
The initiative also brings back a grocery store to central Des Moines that has been missing from that part of the community since Top Value Foods closed. The new grocery store, which will provide traditional and international foods, will open in the facility along with a jewelry store and nail salon. Together the three stores will occupy 23,000 square feet of retail space in the building. The education and employment center will occupy the remaining 12,000 square feet of the building.
Quad Cities businessman Simon Cotran, who heads CDT Investment, LLC will operate the grocery and retail space. Cotran's grocery store, which is yet to be named, will carry brand name and private label food products, along with international foods. It also will feature fresh fruits and produce, meat, dairy, health and beauty items, a bakery and deli. Cotran's management team has more than 85 years of management experience in the grocery and jewelry business. The grocery store, jewelry outlet and salon are expected to open by fall 2012.
"This collaboration between the education and employment center and grocery store will help improve the livelihood of the community. We are thankful for the City of Des Moines in responding positively to the community's needs. We look forward in building a strong relationship working with DMACC and the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families," says Cotran.
Cotran's jewelry store and nail salon will bring new businesses to the area and neighborhood residents are excited by these signs of growth for the region.
"This is a very mixed neighborhood," says Denise Aikoriegie, a Riverbend neighborhood homeowner and resident. "There's a major community college, a major hospital (Mercy Medical Center) and many established businesses here. It's exciting to have a jewelry store and salon coming to the community, which breaks the pattern of the typical businesses that many people associate with this area, and supports the economic and cultural diversity of the community. This could be, along with the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families, the start of a winning solution."
Project organizers seek ideas from neighborhood residents
Throughout the planning process for the center and store outlets, project organizers have worked closely with neighborhood representatives and area religious and community leaders to solicit their input about services and features needed in the area and gain their support for the project. Monthly meetings, which began shortly after the project started in late 2009, have proved valuable for both project leaders and the community residents.
"Barry Griswell from the Community Foundation and Rob Denson from DMACC recognize that a project of this magnitude requires the input and participation of the community in designing a sustainable community development program," says Rhonda Cason, co-chairperson of the community committee.
She says by encouraging local residents to present their ideas so the project reflects the thoughts of the community is making residents partners in the project and hopefully will increase their support for the workforce center, grocery store and retail outlets.
"I think Evelyn would be really pleased with the development of the center," says Dorothy Campbell, a longtime friend of Davis who lives near the Cheatom Park neighborhood, near the soon-to-open center. "Education was number one for her, and with the access to education that people coming to the center will have through DMACC, this will be a tool for change in the community."
Griswell sees the combination workforce and retail center as a shining star for Des Moines.
"This is an opportunity for Des Moines and Iowa to shine," says Griswell. "The Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families has the potential to lead the nation with this innovative, combination approach to delivering workforce services."