The Kootenay Co-op has plenty to celebrate this weekend.
Besides its 37th anniversary, the natural food store has its name on a new piece of land. In a couple years, it plans to open a new, larger store as part of a mixed use development that will replace the former Extra Foods building in the downtown.
On Saturday, the Co-op will host its first event at the future location: a tailgate-style birthday party in the Nelson Commons parking lot at 708 Vernon Street.
In the coming years, that site will change dramatically, if the Co-op gets its way.
Nelson Commons project manager Russell Precious said the plan is to demolish the existing building on the property and re-build from scratch.
He’s now in talks with architects interested in designing the development with 30 to 40 residential units, commercial space and a public area. The Co-op will also need to partner with a developer to sell the units.
“The Co-op does not want to be a developer, it just wants to own its own space,” Precious explained. “We’re more like the motivator. We own the property and we want to see it developed.”
The real test for the project’s viability will be the success of pre-sales on the residential units. But if surveys submitted on the Nelson Commons website are any indication, there’s plenty of interest.
Precious said about 100 people have said they’d be interested in buying a unit.
“That’s two or three times the number of people we need,” he points out.
He’s also received a couple dozen inquiries about the commercial space and about 60 suggestions for how to use the civic space.
Besides the online feedback, the Co-op has also hosted three small focus groups, with 12 Co-op members per group, and hosted an invite-only wine and cheese information session with about 50 community leaders.
“We’ve had a lot of support for our plan. That’s what’s given us the confidence to take the next step,” Precious said. “We know the [housing] market’s not great, but we think we have enough interest to make it work.”
The design phase will cost the Co-op $3,000 to $4,000, and will include the new look for the co-op store itself, which will be about four times the size of its current location.
“The biggest concern that keeps coming up is the risk of the store losing its ambiance when it moves to a bigger space,” Precious said.
He and Co-op general manager Deirdrie Lang have been touring food co-ops in the United States to get ideas for what’s possible.
“It’s exciting to be able to build something from the ground up, incorporating the best of what we’ve seen,” Precious said.
He said the Co-op plans to continue its consultation sessions in the fall and in the meantime encourages feedback be submitted through the surveys on nelsoncommons.ca or emailed to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.