Expansion Update: Design Review

By Matt Stanley/General Manager

On May 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at Astoria City Hall, the Astoria Design Review Committee will review the design of the building to ensure it meets local design standards. This is again another public forum where your support is much needed!

We know that our community is excited to see ground break on our new store. Every day a friendly customer asks “when do you break ground?” We have come so far and spent several years on our journey toward realizing the co-op our community and co-op leadership envisions; ample parking, expanded produce, a full service deli with hot food and lots of seating, an expanded offering of meat, an improved work environment for our staff and more. It only seems reasonable that customers and staff would be wondering “when will we start to see the physical manifestation of all our work?” Even in my own work carrying the project forward I must constantly remind myself of a Lao Tzu quote; “Nature doesn’t hurry yet everything is accomplished.”

The work toward our new store really is a “little engine that could” story. Consider how competitive natural and organic foods are these days. Consider the resources at the disposal of our competitors. To do things the cooperative way is to move slower and more conservatively, to listen to our members and the community at-large along the way, and ultimately to make informed and consensus-based decisions that ensure long-term success of our business. Our collaboration with over 150 food co-ops across the country goes a long way toward supporting our local efforts too (again, cooperative power at work).

We’ve surpassed some major hurdles toward making our new co-op a reality. These include everything from finding an ideal site, connecting with a developer-partner who believed in the project, raising our member-sourced capital, securing a necessary zone change from the city, and receiving a conditional approval for the outside lending needed to complete the project. And yes, where we find ourselves today is the culmination of several years of work. More work lies ahead!

Our most imminent hurdle is one more public approval necessary before we can complete engineering of the building and seek building permits. On May 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at Astoria City Hall, the Astoria Design Review Committee will review the design of the building to ensure it meets local design standards. This is again another public forum where your support is much needed! Please show up to help us demonstrate that this project has broad community interest and that our public representatives should make haste in helping us get shovels in the ground.

So how do I answer the daily ask, “When do you break ground?” If we get Design Review approval on May 3rd we can proceed to permitting and potentially break ground this fall. 8-12 months after breaking ground we’ll open our new store. The timeline will remain fluid due to the complexity of the project and the inevitable surprises that will occur along the way. We will continue to keep you updated on our progress. Of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have concerns, ideas, or questions. Your continued support and cheer leading along the way is invaluable to our cooperative spirit. Our persistence and strong vision mean we’ll be saying hi to each other in our new co-op digs before we know it!

Cheers,

Matt Stanley, Co-op GM

Expansion Clears City Council

The Astoria City Council approved a rezone necessary for our new store at the Mill Pond site. This moves us another step closer to breaking ground. Design review will be next. We appreciate those who testified and wrote letters in support of the Co-op. It really helped! The land use process is complex, especially in our city that’s rich in history and character and where commercial property is scarce. While traffic was a topic of concern at the meeting–and the vote was three to one–the desire to see our homegrown business thrive was unanimous and we appreciate our city leader’s careful consideration and support. You can read more about what happened at the city council meeting in the Daily Astorian.

Co-op Goes to City Council

Expansion Update by Matt Stanley/Co-op General Manager

Momentum in our co-op is strong! The result of nearly five years of planning and preparation mean we are poised to present our building design plans to city officials, get commitments for commercial loans, and see construction start this summer if everything stays on schedule. The Co-op project has received City of Astoria Planning Commission approval and is set to go before the City Council on March 5 at 7 p.m. We’d love to have you there to voice your support.

Indeed, I think the most asked question since we reached and surpassed our $1.5 million preferred shares goal in the fall is “when do you break ground?” The securing of owner investments was a pivotal step in moving our expansion forward. It demonstrated to our landlord, city staff and officials, the Mill Pond community, and the co-op  staff and board of directors, that there was no doubt about the co-op’s capacity to successfully take what for us is a big step forward; in terms of both size and complexity of operation at the new location.

In addition to the rezone we are seeking from the city council, we are also working on design review applications to both the Mill Pond Homeowners Association as well as the City of Astoria Design Review Commission. Final adjustments to the interior store layout are being made so that we can begin work on mechanical and architectural engineering. Trust that we are working diligently to keep our project on schedule. If we do so we may see the new store open for business by summer of 2019.

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.

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

Quick Expansion Update

We are basking in the support our owners have shown by investing $1.5 million dollars in just eight weeks. Planning and financing work continues behind the scenes and we’re moving full-steam ahead on building a bigger store.

One big step that’s happened is submission of a land use application to the City of Astoria. Our expansion is on the planning commission’s agenda for January 23 at 6:30 p.m. We are hoping many of you will attend the meeting to voice your support for our project (more details to come).

The big question everyone is asking is when construction will begin. If all stays on track, we are hoping as early as late spring or summer.

Stay tuned for updates.

Co-op Reaches Expansion Investment Goal

The Co-op’s investment campaign “Together We Grow” has reached its goal, raising $1.5 million to build a bigger store. The Co-op launched the fundraising effort a month and a half ago at its annual meeting.

“We’re blown away by the Co-op support that we’ve seen. It’s a clear demonstration of the fact people want to see this new store happen—and as soon as possible—because we reached our goal on time,” General Manager Matt Stanley said.

Almost 200 locals invested. The preferred shares investment offering was available to Oregon residents who are owners of the Co-op, a consumer owned cooperative. A team of volunteers mailed letters and called potential investors. The Co-op also maintained regular communications about the campaign progress via email and social media.

“We think it’s important to put money toward things that will create a meaningful future for our children and the Co-op not only provides healthy food for them but also a community around food and we really want to be a part of that,” Investor Megan Oien said.

Even though the investment campaign is officially over, the Co-op has more shares available for those who still want to invest. The more money kept local, the less the Co-op will need additional bank financing to make the project happen.

The Co-op will now focus on completing the design, going through a land use approval process, and working to keep the project moving forward as fast as possible.

The Co-op plans to build a new store at 23rd and Marine Drive in Astoria that’s about four times bigger than the store’s current location at 14th and Exchange. Double-digit growth in the last five years has led the Co-op to seek more space. The new store will have a larger deli, fresh meat & seafood, a wider selection of organic and local produce, and more parking.

The Co-op, formerly known as the Community Store, has been in Astoria since 1974. The number of Co-op owners recently topped 4000. About 80% of the Co-op’s shoppers are owners, but it is not a requirement to shop. The Co-op welcomes all shoppers and is hoping to expand its shopper-base even more with the new store.

Need More Investors to Reach Goal

The Co-op’s investment campaign “Together We Grow” has raised $1.2 million as of Thursday October 26, a little more than a month since the fundraising launch. The Co-op’s goal is to raise $1.5 million by month’s-end to stay on track for building a new store.

The Co-op has a lease at 23rd and Marine Drive in Astoria which includes construction of a new 12,000 square-foot building, about four times the size of the current store at 14th and Exchange. The co-op seeks to keep as many dollars local as possible to pay for this expansion. As a consumer-owned cooperative, the Co-op is selling preferred shares—an issuance of stock—to its Oregon-resident owners, yielding up to a 4% annual dividend.

“This is such an amazing testament to one of the co-op principals; owner economic participation. The community is coming together to do something we couldn’t do as individuals. It feels really positive! We are going to reach our goal and put this money to work doing great things in the community,” Co-op General Manager Matt Stanley said.

The average investment has been about $10,000. Volunteers have been mailing letters and making phone calls to potential investors. The Co-op has also been contacting people about the opportunity via email and social media.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the range of investors we’ve seen, from Co-op founders to those who are totally new to the Co-op. They see this as a good opportunity not only in terms of the return but also investing in community,” Co-op Marketing Director Zetty Nemlowill said.

Double-digit growth in the last five years led the Co-op to seek more space and amenities including a dedicated receiving area and ample parking. The new store will have a larger deli, fresh meat & seafood counter, and wider selection of organic and local produce.

The Co-op, formerly known as the Community Store, has been in Astoria since 1974. The number of Co-op owners recently topped 4000. About 80% of the Co-op’s shoppers are owners, but it is not a requirement to shop. The Co-op welcomes all shoppers and is hoping to expand its shopper-base even more with the new store.

Expansion and investment information is available at www.astoria.coop, in the store, and by contacting our General Manager directly at 503-791-5692 or matt@astoria.coop.