BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — North Baton Rouge residents have been living in a food desert for years. An area shopping center once held a Save A Lot and a nearby Winn Dixie shut down nearly a decade ago.

Now, a Rouses is set to open on Florida and North Ardenwood boulevards.

“When Albertson’s and Winn Dixie closed down in that corridor along Florida, Greenwell Springs Road, it left a deficit,” said Dr. James Gilmore, board director of Baton Rouge North Economic Development District.

Dr. Gilmore, along with other city leaders, has been pushing for a supermarket in the area for years. Gilmore says it’s been difficult.

“For so many years grocery chains, as well as restaurants, have said there’s not enough people in Baton Rouge and the income is not high enough and there is not enough disposable income,” he said.

A new report from the Baton Rouge Area Chamber show’s residents in North Baton Rouge does have the money and they are spending it in other parts of town. Gilmore says the study convinced stores to invest in the area.

He says food insecurity has gotten worse post-pandemic.

“When the economy catches a cold, minorities and poor people catch a flu,” said Gilmore.

Terohn Snipes lives in the heart of a food desert in Scotlandville. Snipes says the closest supermarket is 15 minutes away. He wants more options in his area but says a Rouses is a sign of hope.

“Grocery shopping has been a little bit difficult nowadays so I try to get once a month, twice a month, get as much as I can,” he said. “A new grocery store will definitely bring more to the community, have people eating better, living better.”

Others argue Rouses is not affordable for those who live near Florida Boulevard.

“Rouses is a good positive thing to the community. The price of food, the price of fuel, all of that has gone up, except people’s paycheck,” said one Shenandoah resident.

Gilmore says Rouses will bring promise to the residents.

“Yes, Rouses may be a few cents more expensive, but Rouses pays a little bit more higher wages. So, those individuals that go to work there, hopefully, they are located in North Baton Rouge or in the district so they will have better wages,” said Gilmore. “The quality of food that Rouses provides. They provide hot food also.”

Rouses faced backlash after its former CEO, Donald Rouse Senior, attended Donald Trump’s rally on January 6th. Gilmore says he hopes that by serving a predominantly Black community, Rouses will quote “prove it embraces diversity and is against white supremacy.”

We reached out to Rouses to talk about this new project but did not hear back.

Rouses will accept SNAP benefits. Construction begins in July of this year, and the store is expected to open next summer.