New H Mart location coming to downtown Urbana in 2024
URBANA- Popular Korean grocery store H Mart is opening a new location next year in downtown Urbana.
This grocery store will help to prioritize increased diversity for the community and create new additions to the downtown area of the city, according to Urbana city officials.
Outside of the five locations in Illinois, they said, Urbana’s H Mart will be the first location in downstate Illinois.
Andrea Ruedi, senior adviser for integrated strategy development for the City of Urbana, said she has been working alongside her team toward a new comprehensive plan for city and economic development in Urbana.
Ruedi said she had placed attention toward building more attractions that will draw visitors or residents to the city.
When H Mart approached Urbana, she said, she welcomed the opportunity.
“We view this as a great addition,” Ruedi said. “It’s going to be a destination for not only residents, but visitors.
“Of course, we’d like to see more students downtown, so we think this is going to be a draw for that. If no one has been to one of these stores, they’re amazing.”
Ruedi said the large Asian student population at the University of Illinois, a building that fit H Mart’s design layout, and opportunity for growth made downtown Urbana a good location for H Mart.
Freshman computer science major Ian Sornson said he is looking forward to having an H Mart nearby.
Sornson often visits Asian grocery stores off-campus and said he thinks adding this store will have a positive impact on Urbana.
“It’s always nice back at home (in upstate Illinois) to have a variety of Korean grocery stores, and just Asian grocery stores in general,” Sornson said. “You can just find more things that you can’t find elsewhere.
“So, having it down here is going to be a nice taste of home. I'm looking forward to it.”
Sornson is not the only student with this perspective.
Freshman biology major Haley Han spoke about the possible success of the store because of the appreciation of Asian culture that students of the university hold.
“I was happy about it, but I was not really surprised that it was coming here because the population of Asian students here is so big and the interest in Asian food is so popular,” Han said. “I am still very happy about it.”
Stores like H Mart are not only widely known throughout the Korean community, but many other communities share interest in experiencing new flavors and types of food, Sornson said.
“I think increased diversity is always a good thing,” Sornson said. “It’s not just Asian students that love H Mart. When I go to Korean grocery stores back at home there’s a lot of white people too and a lot of different races.
“People like to try different foods, so I think it’s always a good thing to have more options for everybody.”
Ruedi said the development of downtown Urbana is a priority that the city continues to examine through weekly council meetings.
“Our arms are open and welcoming to all businesses,” Ruedi said. “We have a great mix in downtown Urbana now with restaurants and the art scene.
“We’re really wanting to capitalize on that. We just completed a public realm study on how we can improve our downtown in terms of accessibility and gathering places for visitors, as well as residents. This is definitely a focus for us.”