WATERLOO — Former Councilwoman Willie Mae Wright was tenacious in demanding her 4th Ward be treated the same as other parts of Waterloo.
Developer Rodney Anderson will make sure Wright’s service is honored in a new supermarket residents of the Walnut Neighborhood have been demanding for a very long time.
Anderson is the managing partner of a firm preparing to build a new All In Grocers supermarket and restaurant near the CVS Pharmacy at U.S. Highway 63 and Franklin Street.
He surprised Wright during Monday’s City Council meeting by announcing the store’s 1,000-square-foot community room would be named after a “trailblazer that’s been in this community for 58 years.”
“After hearing her story and all the things she did for all of us, we are going to name the community center the Miss Willie Mae Wright Community Center,” said Anderson, before giving Wright a hug while those in the council chambers gave a standing ovation.
Wright, who lives across the street from the planned store, served on the City Council from 1984 through 1993, led a number of civil rights causes in the community and has a very long resume of service on boards and organizations.
The announcement came as current council members voted unanimously to rework a development agreement for the project to acquire a 28-stall parking lot, which is the last parcel needed before a planned April 2 groundbreaking.
The original development agreement for the $8.5 million, 30,000-square-foot store called for the city to acquire the parking lot and donate it to the project. The owner of the nearby Walnut Court Apartments supported the store but noted it needed the parking lot for tenants.
The amended development agreement calls for Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity to donate land in an adjoining block for the new parking lot. The city would pay the estimated $148,000 cost of having the store’s contractor build a new parking lot there.
Walnut Court Apartments would get the new lot and give the existing lot to the store. Habitat for Humanity would get additional city-owed lots and cash to construct new housing in the Walnut Neighborhood.
The city’s contribution to the project is coming from the tax-increment financing district.
“I think this is a perfect use of these funds,” said Councilman Chris Shimp. “This is exactly one of the things this community needs. I can’t say enough good things about the projects (Anderson) has got going on over there.”
Councilwoman Margaret Klein, who along with Shimp was not on the council when the original development agreement was approved last year, met with Anderson to learn about the project.
“I love the vision,” she said. “I love the exciting ideas. He’s the gentleman that can pull it off.”