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.

Together We Grow Update

By General Manager Matt Stanley

We’re embarking on a truly grassroots effort to build co-op equity so we can make our dream store a reality and keep as much of the financing for the project as local as possible. Now, three weeks into our owner investment campaign Together We Grow we’re almost halfway to raising enough investments to build you a bigger store!

The goal of raising at least $1.5 million in owner investments will support our much-needed expansion. Now, Astoria Co-op Grocery is asking you, if you haven’t yet invested, to step up and bring the campaign the rest of the way home by October 31st. This is a rare opportunity to see your dollars at work growing a local business that brings tremendous benefit to our community.

We’ve revealed the exterior plans for the new store. We are digging into the design of the interior. Visual images make the new store tangible. Picture yourself choosing a parking space out of the 50 available!

Together We Grow is a capital campaign based on the offering of preferred shares to Astoria Co-op owners that are Oregon residents. Preferred shares, although not a term most of us are familiar with, are quite straight forward.

First, each co-op owner invests in their common share with the co-op. Most of us are paying off the $200 common share in $25 increments. This equity has and will continue to be instrumental in growing our business and making all the things that make the co-op special accessible to more and more community members. Common shares are non-interest bearing and have no par value.

The Co-op’s Series A Preferred Shares are an opportunity for co-op owners to invest in our expansion project and earn an annual dividend. Each preferred share has a par value of $100 and the Co-op is issuing (through a registration with the State of Oregon) 25,000 preferred shares.

The minimum investment involves the purchase of 25 shares, or $2,500. These owners will receive an annual dividend of 3%. Owners who purchase 100 or more shares ($10,000 or more) will receive an annual dividend of 4%.

That’s the nuts and bolts of how this works. Co-op owners receive a reasonable return and the co-op strengthens its balance sheet enough to make the project feasible. Our minimum goal to move the project forward is $1.5 million, or the sale of 15,000 shares. But we’ll need your help to make it happen.

Why sell all the shares? Because it means the co-op can rely less on external financing to complete the project. More dollars stay local. More local co-op owners get to shop and benefit from the very thing that they invested in. We don’t get many opportunities to put our money to work right in our very own community. This is your chance. I am investing. Others in my extended family are investing. Many other owners have already committed their investments. Join us in our cooperative effort to expand this community treasure!

Contact me at matt@astoria.coop or on my cell at 503-791-5692. Together we can hit our goal and move forward to growing a bigger and better store together!

New Store Rendering

Here’s a conceptual rendering of our new store at 23rd and Marine Drive in Astoria’s Millpond; a location that’s been secured with a lease which includes construction of a new store. The new building will be about 12,000 square feet; four times the size of the current store. Read more about the site here.

Owner Investment Campaign

Our grassroots effort to make a bigger store a reality has sprouted! Our business, a consumer-owned cooperative, has launched an owner investment campaign called “Together We Grow”, and we’ve already raised $430,000!

Preferred shares are an issuance of stock for Oregon residents who are Co-op owners. The shares are available starting at a minimum investment of $2,500. The Co-op is issuing 25,000 shares each with a value of $100 and is selling them to raise equity for the expansion. The annual dividend is 3% and for those who invest $10,000 or more the dividend is 4%.

The Co-op’s portion of the project to build a new store at 23rd and Marine drive in Astoria, is about $3.8 million with a minimum of $1.5 million coming from owner investments. Co-op General Manager Matt Stanley feels the Co-op can beat its minimum goal of $1.5 million and is aiming to sell as many of the shares as possible, totaling $2.5 million.

“The more folks invest the less the Co-op needs to go to traditional financing, so more dollars stay local,” Stanley said.

The Co-op sources many goods from local producers and looks forward to growing the marketplace for local food. For every dollar that’s spent at the Co-op, 52¢ goes back into the local economy, according to a report by National Co-op Grocers.

“I think of investing in the Co-op as truly investing in our community. You’re investing in me as a farmer and you’re investing in my business too. You’re investing in all these small local food producers. For us, that’s so meaningful,” Teresa Retzlaff of 46 North Farm said.

The Co-op has been in the community for 43 years with a proven track record including double digit growth in the last five years and growing owners, recently reaching 4,000. This success has led to the Co-op needing more space and amenities. The new store will have a much-needed loading dock, more parking, a larger deli, fresh meat/seafood counter, and wider selection of organic and local produce.

Expansion and investment information is available at www.astoria.coop or stopping by the store.