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Vacant W. Ashley grocery store a top priority for local, state leaders

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WEST ASHLEY, SC (WCSC) -

A West Ashley grocery store empty for six months is now a top priority for local and state leaders.

The Food Lion, formerly on the corner of Sycamore Avenue and St. Andrews Boulevard, created a void and an inconvenience when its doors closed back in January. The grocery store was in walking distance for many area residents who now struggle to get to stores further away.

On Wednesday, Rep.Wendell Gilliard said the building is getting quite a bit of interest, but officials are still deciding what will go there. Gilliard said so far, a proposal to put a farmers market in the old Food Lion building has been rejected.

Although the building is for lease, Gilliard said there is a balance between doing what is best for businesses and the community.

Harrison Gibbs rides his bike most places. He remembers how much easier life was before Food Lion shut down.

"All you got to do is go across the road and get your stuff and come on back," said Gibbs recalling his short trips to the store.

Now, he and other senior citizens say they have to travel further to get the things they need.

"Go to Doscher's or Piggly Wiggly or any other store far away," said Gerod Brown a senior citizen in the neighborhood. "It's more expensive and most of the senior citizens back here can't really afford that."

Brown is luckier than some. He owns a vehicle and drives. But he says his senior citizen friends don't have that luxury when going to the grocery store. Although Gibbs relies on his bike for transportation, he said others don't, and shopping is a struggle.

"They can't make it up there. They would have to take a cab or go pay somebody to go take them," said Gibbs.

Since the store's closing, Gilliard has been flooded with calls and complaints from the community members who depended on the Food Lion. 

"On the economic development list, this property here is high priority," said Gilliard pointing to the vacant former Food Lion building.

There have been a number of ideas about what to put in the space. Seniors say they hope their needs are considered before the building is leased again, and they have their own proposal for what to put there.

"A Save-A-Lot or either another Doscher's. That would be more convenient for the people in the neighborhood anyway," said Larry Edwards, a senior citizen in the area.

On Wednesday, Charleston City Councilman Aubry Alexander said several council members, as well as the city's planning departments, are working on an economic development plan for West Ashley, and the old Food Lion is a part of it.

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