A group that wants to establish a cooperative grocery in downtown Columbus is exploring the former REMC site on Second Street as a possible location for a store.
On Monday, members of Columbus Food Co-op shared with the Columbus Redevelopment Commission the purpose of a food co-op and their interest in the site.
The commission owns the property at 801 Second St. Three structures are on the property:
The Columbus Food Co-op is interested in the operations building for the grocery store because of its size and location, said Max Lemley, a board member of the co-op.
The operations building is about 12,000 square feet. Lemley said the goal is to have enough space to include community space for the public, a kitchen area for cooking demonstrations and a café for selling meals.
Lemley said the co-op board believes the Second Street corridor will grow; and with the downtown Cole apartments scheduled to open early next year, a grocery on Second Street would be a good site.
Members of the co-op and the redevelopment commission will tour the operations building Saturday morning to get a better understanding of its potential and the amount of work that would be needed to turn it into a grocery store, said Heather Pope, executive director of the redevelopment commission.
For several months, the Columbus Food Co-op has been looking into building a grocery on a vacant lot next to the Jackson Place townhouses, at 1010 Jackson St. However, a store on that property would be about 6,000 square feet and cost about $900,000, said SaraBeth Drybread, the co-op’s community outreach coordinator.
The co-op is still considering the Jackson Street property, Drybread said, but it also wants to make sure it was exploring all options. A previous plan to lease a building from Cummins Inc. at 315 Sixth St., behind Viewpoint Books, fell apart.
The REMC site is appealing, she said, because it’s an existing building with room for expansion and enough room for parking, and opening a grocery store at this site could cost less than on Jackson Street.
More space could open up if the REMC office building and warehouse were demolished. In September, the Columbus City Council approved local funds as part of an application for a federal Community Development Block Grant, which would pay for the demolition of the flood-damaged buildings, Pope said.
Understanding the costs of sites is important for the co-op, which is planning a second member loan drive early next year, Drybread said. The co-op has about 600 members.
The members, who are the stakeholders in the co-op, each paid a one-time, $90 membership fee, which has generated about $54,000.
A loan drive from October 2011 to February generated about $170,000.
“I hope they (commission members) see us as a positive part of the community,”
The redevelopment commission is warm to the idea of a downtown cooperative grocery, said Sarah Cannon, vice president of the commission. She and Mayor Kristen Brown, the commission’s president, are co-op members.
“The commission is interested in the idea. It would be an asset to downtown,” said Dave Wright, a commission member.
But, he added it’s too early to conclude if the REMC site is good for a grocery store.
Cannon said commission members need to determine if the REMC building is suitable for a grocery and if a grocery is suitable for the area.
The commission owns several adjoining parcels of land that also could be made available for development.
REMC site info
WHAT: Former REMC location
WHERE: 801 Second St., Columbus
STRUCTURES: Office building, two stories, lower level damaged by 2008 flood.
Warehouse, damaged by 2008 flood.
Operations building, about 12,000 square feet, undamaged by flood.
STATUS: Unoccupied. Owned by the Columbus Redevelopment Commission. Potential site for developer.
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