After more than a year of delay in starting construction, Three Rivers Market finally commenced work last week on their long-promised new facility at 1100 North Central Street.
The project, first announced in the summer of 2009, was expected to break ground that fall. But recession financing, combined with some unexpectedly high costs, turned out to make the project more complicated than expected. A fairly complex casserole of funding, including cash on hand, loans from members, loans from the city, and loans from Capitalmark Bank and Trust, and the Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund, a national co-op-friendly organization, made it possible to hire actual guys with hardhats to do the demolition (now) and construction (commencing next month). The total cost of the project is around $2.5 million.
The Three Rivers Market, formerly known as the Food Co-op, emphasizes the local and the organic, and currently has 2,650 interest-purchasing members who get discounts on some grocery items.
The new building, near the old Sears buidling on the downtown fringe of Happy Holler, will be a combination of an existing old Merita bread warehouse and a major expansion. In all, the new building will be about 10,000 square feet in size, offering about three times as much retail space than has been available in the charming cottage at 937 North Broadway that's been the co-op's home for 30 years. (That building will be sold to help pay for the project.) Promising a cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, a deli with fresh meats, a bakery section, four checkout lanes, and a staff doubled to 50, it may stand to compete better with the proliferating corporate-scale organic-foods groceries like EarthFare. Some unusual features will include a fill-your-own water dispenser, organic-gardening supplies, and store-based composting. It'll also feature 50 parking spaces—the current store has four—because they're required to by city zoning. As if to take the stink off the its unaccustomed automobile accessibility, Three Rivers will include a "bike fix-it station," a rarity in local groceries.
In answer to the oft-expressed concern that the new store, despite its amenities, will lack the charm of the old hippie co-op, in a statement on the grocery's website, General Manager Jacqueline Arthur promises the new place will be "big enough to meet your needs but small enough to meet your neighbors."
Current projections call for a summer, 2011, opening.
Corrected: LEED certification will be explored after construction.