Yes Vote for Co-op

The Astoria Planning Commission voted in favor of a rezone request necessary to keep our project on track at a meeting January 24. The city council will have the ultimate say on the rezone. Read more about in the Daily Astorian’s coverage.

The planning commission meeting was lengthy. There were concerns regarding traffic but everyone agreed that they favor the co-op expansion. Following a five-year process which included a market study and looking at sites, we came to the conclusion that Mill Pond was really the only place that would work. In a beloved city where land is scarce no land use decision is ever easy.

As stated in a letter of support by Paul Benoit, who was community development director during redevelopment of the mill site: “The site at the corner of 23rd and Marine Drive has all of the key attributes needed to support a retail establishment and I can think of no better use than the Co-op to finally realize the long-held vision that Venerable Properties and the City had for the site.”

We are overwhelmed by the love and support this community is showing for our co-op. A big thanks to those who provided testimony at the meeting. We couldn’t have gotten this far in the process without you.

Expansion Goes to Planning Commission

By Zetty Nemlowill/Co-op Marketing Director

Before we can break ground on a new store, we must successfully get through the land use process and could use your help. The Astoria Planning Commission meets on Wednesday January 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Astoria City Hall to consider a zone change that’s necessary for our project to move forward, and we’d love to have you there to voice your support.

The property the co-op has leased at Mill Pond is zoned attached housing and we’re proposing it be changed to a local services zone in order to meet our requirements. Under current zoning, a store could be built there as a conditional use; however, it could only be up to 6,000 square feet and we need almost twice that. The city created this provision when planning the mixed use Mill Pond redevelopment in order to prevent a big box store from going there, but planners desired services that would complement the adjacent neighborhood and we think our new store can fulfill that vision.

Indeed, we’ve heard from future neighbors–both residential and workers from the hospital, Astoria’s largest employer–that they’ll be thrilled to walk to the co-op. While we know there is broad community support for our project, we need it voiced in the form of public testimony to the planning commission. Testimony should be based on the criteria contained in the city staff report which can be found here. If you cannot attend the meeting in person, you can also provide your comments in writing and deliver them to city hall or email Planner Mike Morgan at mmorgan@astoria.or.us.

If the commission approves a re-zone, it will then go to city council. The co-op will also need to complete design review with the city and Mill Pond home owner’s association.

While the timeline for opening the new store is fluid, our best estimate is spring 2019. Meantime we’ll be working diligently on land use, financing, layout, and much more. We look forward to communicating with you every step of the way and really appreciate your support; from providing testimony to the planning commission, telling your friends about the co-op, and shopping regularly at your community-owned grocery store.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to reach out to me zetty@astoria.coop or our general manager Matt Stanley matt@astoria.coop.

Priced to Compete

By Zetty Nemlowill/Co-op Marketing Director

One reason I love my job is I truly believe in the Co-op; from local ownership to local food. It’s also great to work at a place everyone loves!

A complaint I still sometimes hear though, is that we’re too expensive, but we’re making some seriously impressive strides in this area. So I wanted to share with you a juicy little morsel: Not too long ago we tested $800 worth of same-product prices at a large grocery store in the area and came within 4%. I think for our little store that ROCKS!

An important aspect of growth and expansion is that the more we grow, the more we can lower prices. The more we purchase from our main distributors, the less we pay and the more savings we can pass on to you. We’ve been able to ripen our buying power through strategic sales growth and collaborating with other food co-ops from around the country.

Lower prices allow us to compete, survive and make a larger impact on the community including expanding the marketplace for local farmers and food & beverage producers. As a bonus to meeting your bottom-line, for every dollar you spend at the Co-op, 52ยข goes back into the local economy, which is huge!

So if you think the Co-op is too expensive, or if you know someone who does, please take another look and encourage your friends to do so, too. If you find a product that’s more expensive at the Co-op, let us know and we may be able to adjust the price. After all, you own this grocery store!

As we ramp up to build a much-needed bigger new store, we are prepared to compete: offering natural food groceries at competitive prices, but we’re going to do better than that. We will continue to go the extra mile to do the work we know you love: sourcing fresh local food from dozens of coastal growers and makers. Stuff you can only get by shopping outside the box.

As we prepare to compete with even more retailers, our bigger new store will help nourish our ability to serve you the great food you love in a better way than ever before.

New Year Expansion Update

Many co-op supporters have been asking where we are in the expansion project. We are currently working through the approval process. We are seeking a zone change and have to complete Design Review with the City of Astoria and the Mill Pond Home Owners Association.

The next big step is approval from the City Planning Commission on Wednesday January 24th at 6:30PM at City Hall. I’d love to have as many of you there as possible to make sure that the Planners know that there is broad community support for our project (we know there is!). We have a City Staff recommendation, which typically bodes well for applications to the Commission, but your presence will help tremendously! The public notice for the planning commission meeting can be found here: http://astoria.or.us/assets/dept_3/pm/pdf/1-24-18%20email.pdf

With approval from the Planning Commission our zone change will go to the City Council on February 19th. I’ll share those details subsequently.

Overall timeline for the project is probably pushing us into Spring of 2019 for opening. But the timeline is fluid and trust we are working very hard to move us into the new space as soon as possible. Other ongoing work includes securing bank financing, finalizing our store layout and fixture plan and much more.

Looking forward to seeing a bunch of you at the January 24th meeting at City Hall! Here’s to a healthy and cooperatively prosperous 2018!

Cheers, Matt Stanley/Co-op General Manager