A few weeks ago 17th Congressional District GOP challenger Bill Fawell discovered the grocery store closure issue and resulting food desert bedeviling Peoria's south end and East Bluff.

Last week he held a news conference to talk about his observations on the matter. Reporter Steve Tarter, who has written extensively on the topic, filed this dispatch:

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Bill Fawell paid a visit to Peoria on Wednesday. His news conference was held outside at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Pecan Street, standing by the trunk of his car.

Only three people showed to stand in the sun to discuss the need for a grocery store on the south side of Peoria.

Fawell, a real estate broker from Galena, said during a previous visit to Peoria earlier this year the one issue people talked about the most was the need for another supermarket to replace the two Kroger stores that closed.

Fawell believes the ideal site for a store is where he parked his car — near the intersection of Jefferson and MacArthur Highway.

A not-for-profit needs to step up — with $1.5 million — to make a new store a reality, he said. "But there's TIF money and other grants that could be used," he said.

Fawell talked about Rich Wallach at IFF.org, a not-for-profit developer, who opened a grocery in Rockford in a food desert situation.

"IFF likes Save-A-Lot but I like Piggly Wiggly," he said, referring to a specific market that might set up shop here.

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Our take is this: Fawell has identified a location, but still lacks specifics on a group to come in. Save-A-Lot obviously has already tried unsuccessfully here, and Piggly Wiggly is 150 miles away from the nearest store. A different retailer may be needed.

He argues that a growing Warehouse District providing additional customers on top of South Peoria residents is vital. His phrasing on the need during a later phone conversation with us is a tad blunt and likely to rankle, though: "You're never going to make a grocery store work based on the demographics of the south end. You need to expand the demographics."

Operationally, Fawell also has some other hurdles to overcome. Kicking things off with a news conference may have put the cart before the horse.

Though he says he met with some local clergy, Fawell put some local noses out of joint by not reaching out ahead of the news conference to meet with the committees that have spent six months already working on the topic — or for that matter researching the plethora of stories the Journal Star and other local media have done on the issue.

If he has ideas to contribute, those ideas should be welcome in that forum.

But as he prepares for any such meeting, he may want to note two other things.

First, in terms of geography, they're generally called the West Bluff and either South Peoria, the south side or the south end rather than "the Hill Top" and "Bottom of the Hill." The use especially of the latter raised some eyebrows as ordinarily pejorative in these parts.

Second, a focus on the East Bluff — which also lost a grocery store — couldn't hurt. (C.K.)

Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at ckaergard@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.