The Evans Center is a proposed multi-use food retail, health clinic and job training facility to be located in a USDA-designated food desert, in the northeast corner of Palm Bay. The Center will serve approximately 5 thousand low to moderate income residents many of whom are suffering from obesity (1/3) and diabetes (1/5). Almost 80 percent of residents do not consume the USDA recommended amount of fruits and vegetables despite their state's prodigious production of both.
The Evans Center will be a public-private venture between the City of Palm Bay and community leaders on the Evans Center board. The Brevard Health Alliance has committed to operating the health clinic at location. Career Source will collaborate by providing paid, on-the-job training to youth working at the market. The Evans Center and the Bayfront Community Redevelopment agency sought assistance from Livability Solutions to attract a retailer of healthy foods.
The Evans Center, in collaboration with Project for Public Spaces and Livability Solutions' designated provider of technical assistance (ChangeLab Solutions) designed a program of technical assistance to accomplish the following objectives:
Prior to the workshop ChangeLab Solutions worked with the City and the Evans Center board to build relationships with key stakeholders which included: the Florida Grocers Association, grocery wholesalers serving the Palm Bay area, University of Florida Cooperative Extension, and community organizations with similar or complementary objectives.
The "Getting to Grocery" workshop was held in Palm Bay on September 16, 2015, for the purposes of: identifying public and private funding sources for the Center; refining the Evans Center's business plan; and developing an understanding of how Florida food retail industry trends should guide the project's retailer outreach strategy. The workshop drew 23 attendees including Mayor William Capote, City Manager Gregg Lynk and Deputy City Manager David Isnardi. Additionally, key stakeholders from the Florida Community Loan Fund, the YMCA, and several local food retailers participated.
Following the workshop ChangeLab Solutions issued a technical memo with recommendations for next steps. Contained within the memo was a "prospectus" that could be used by the Evans Center and Bayfront Community Redevelopment Agency to apply for grant funding for a healthy grocer. Included within the prospectus were the health demographics of residents.
The Evans Center's board has decided it is better to recruit a retailer than to run a grocery itself.
ChangeLab Solutions connected the board with the Florida Grocers Association. The Association has identified five wholesalers serving the Palm Bay area. One of the wholesalers (Super Valu) toured the site of the Evans Center. The wholesaler has contacted a number of its retailers, one of whom has expressed an interest in the site. The Evans Center board has also made contact with a local convenience retailer who has expressed an interest in the site.
In February 2016, Evans Center stakeholders launched a monthly Farmers & Flea Market on the future Evans Center site. In addition to produce, there was an assortment of items for sale such as accessories, t-shirts related to black history month, Girl Scout cookies, legal services, and fish sandwiches. It was notable that all of the vendors had a connection to the Powell-Driskell Heights neighborhoods. Seeing the farmers market spurred two other residents to commit to bringing their garden yield for sale next month.