Junior Achievement to move into old Save-a-Lot space, leaving Binghampton a food desert

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Parts of Binghampton are thriving, but one thing that has always been missing: a grocery store.

Save-a-Lot was supposed to save the day when it opened in 2018 as the first grocery store in Binghampton, a place described as a food desert. But in two years, Save-a-Lot was gone, one of several stores the company closed nationwide.

Still, many hoped another grocery chain would move in.

“What we do need  is a place to shop with a low price that people can afford, because we’re going through hard times right now,” says Allison Torrence, who shops in the area.

But Wednesday, the Binghampton Development Corporation was finalizing a move in another direction, getting not a grocery store but a business, Junior Achievement, to move into the empty space.

In a letter to the Economic Development Growth Engine Board, the group that gave a PILOT tax break to get a grocery store in the space, the Binghampton Development Corporation said they went to great lengths to replace Save-a-Lot, but were not able to entice another supermarket.

Now Junior Achievement would like to occupy the space for its offices and teach children about money and entrepreneurship.
  
“I thought that was why they built this shopping center in the first place, was to have a grocery store for this area. And so they’re not going to have one again? That’s a shame,” says Leslie Blakeburn of Memphis.

We tried to ask Binghampton Development Corporation about the move, but the executive director did not respond to our calls.

Junior Achievement said they are excited about the potential office space, but would wait until the move was finalized by the EDGE board before they commented further.

The head of EDGE says changing the PILOT to allow something other than a grocery store in the space is a unique modification, but it will allow space to be leased to Junior Achievement.

As for what happens with the idea of grocery store, right now it appears off the table.

“Everybody around here don’t have transportation,” Torrence said. “The people that are disabled, they can’t make it to the stores. They have to make it to stores like this in the community.”

The EDGE Board met Wednesday afternoon and voted to approve a change to that PILOT agreement. allowing the tax break to be used for Junior Achievement instead of another grocery store.

“Junior Achievement Memphis will use Save-A-Lot’s former location to house an educational space dedicated to teaching children business finance basics,” the EDGE board announced. “Twelve team members will staff the center while 150 students, volunteers, and teachers regularly visit weekdays from October to May. Junior Achievement will sign a 15-year lease and invest $2.5 million in building improvements.”


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