The first phase of an $8.2 million redevelopment project in downtown Reading has launched. Leopold Sanchez, owner of the building to be redeveloped at North 4th and Elm Streets, will convert the vacant 40,000-square-foot property into a two-story commercial space with three different businesses.
The project was financed by a consortium of lenders led by Community First Fund, a loan agency based in Allentown which specializes in serving low income communities.
Community First Fund and the Greater Berks Development Fund, an affiliate of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, have been working with Sanchez on the development of the project since March of 2018.
The street level of the property will feature a 17,000-square-foot Super Natural & Fresh Produce grocery store and café.
The second floor will house two different businesses: a 19,000-square-foot warehouse to supply local bodegas and grocery stores with fresh food and a 4,000-square-foot manufacturing space to produce corn flour tortillas for local stores and restaurants.
The property also includes nine affordable apartments currently on the property, which will remain.
An existing 10,000-square-foot space will be demolished to create a parking garage and loading dock. The project is estimated to be completed in 2022 and will create 120 full-time jobs and 30 part-time jobs.
“Providing access to a grocery store and healthy foods is a critical issue in underserved communities,” said Dan Betancourt, president and CEO of Community First Fund. “This project will help make this neighborhood a better and healthier place for low-income individuals to live and prosper. And the creation of 150 quality jobs will have a major impact on many families in Reading. We are proud to be assisting Leo Sanchez with this project.”
Community First Fund made the initial loan of $1.2 million to start Phase 1, which encompasses pre-development work such as demolition, parking renovations, and roof repairs. The Greater Berks Development Fund has 50 percent participation in the loan at $600,000. Additionally, the City of Reading has pledged $1.5 million to help finance equipment. Additional financing still needs to be secured for Phase 2, which is when the large-scale construction and renovations will take place.
Sanchez worked closely with the Kutztown University Small Business Development Center on this project, which helped him with business planning and projections.
Local realtor and consultant Michael Rivera will be serving as project manager.
Monarch Enterprise, headed by Aaron Camara, will be managing construction of the project.