Development is a complicated process. While we went into the project with an ambitious outlook, ensuring the continued viability of the French Broad Food Coop has been the primary focus of the Board of Directors. Our ambitions for the project remain and we now have a better understanding of the real-world constraints that will shape the end result.
Turning the membership’s collective vision for a new store into a reality is more art than it is science and it requires careful coordination. As a Board of Directors, we are committed to creating an innovative strategy that allows us to weave our vision into an economically feasible project.
As a Board of Directors, we’ve pursued conversations with a number of partners and we’ve explored conceptual designs. The process has been informative and we’ve walked away better educated and more discerning. Our goal is to respect our history and the work that has been invested into FBFC over the past 40+ years while setting the stage for a future that secures our place within the local community and upholding the principles of a cooperative economy.
Without a doubt, we’d all love to be filling our carts in our newly expanded store. Part of the education that has come along with moving this project to fruition has been learning not to sell ourselves short and reaching for partnerships that understand the power and value of FBFC. We’re not going to enter any relationship that doesn’t put the membership in the driver seat.
Bottom-line, the development project remains at the forefront of our priorities. Our time has been spent gathering information that will inform the final design and understanding the partnerships and dynamics that will lead us to success. Our goal is to find partners that are interested in building our coop rather than a grocery store. We continue to explore conversations that will bring the right mix of funding and future tenants.
Our intention, as we continue working to bring the membership an expansion plan that unites our vision with reality, is to preserve, with careful planning and due diligence, the legacy that FBFC has built over the past four decades. We value support of the membership with this endeavor.
Aerial footage of the site:
In the spirit of cooperation, we want you to be the first to know that we are extending the deadline for responses to our Request for Proposals (RFP) to June 1st at the request of interested parties. We invite you to take a look! This amazing document contains information about possible and desired features and the details of our expansion and invites partners, proposals for redevelopment of our mixed-use property in the 60 – 100 block of Biltmore Avenue, and our future master developer to join in and make our expansion momentous.
We know it is possible that among our owners we have individuals qualified to help us create this vision. Or if you know of values-aligned professionals that you could see providing knowledge, service, or expertise to the expansion, get them in touch with us. Please refer contacts or reach out directly to our project manager, Sage Turner, to view the RFP, learn more about the project, and to explore the possibility of how you could be more involved.
Now is a crucial time for our co-op community to be closer than ever. We want to keep you up-to-date on new developments in our expansion process, hear your voices, and let you know about possibilities for involvement as we grow, so it’s very important that you keep your owner share current and provide us with your best contact details, such as new addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. You can reply to this message with contact detail updates and questions!
We know many community members are eager to stay involved, so we are happy to announce that there are two upcoming opportunities for owner engagement. On Saturday, February 13th (in the Movement and Learning Center, upstairs from the store), we will host our 3rd Annual “We Love Our Owners” meet and greet in conjunction with the next meeting of the Owners Council. The Owners Council is committee that supports our Development Committee, and is a forum for exchange of expansion-related information among owners, board of directors, and management. The Owners Council will take place from 1 – 2 PM, followed by our casual meet and greet. 2 – 3 PM, with chocolate, wine, and treats to show our appreciation for co-op family!
And, stay tuned for an announcement of a large, public, community forum to discuss ideas for the expansion to take place sometime in March. We will let you know more as soon as the details are settled.
Most importantly, we want to take a moment to thank you, all of you, for your ongoing and increasing support in recent years. This historic change to our store and expansion of our community would not be possible without devoted owners, shoppers, staff members, farmers, food producers, and teachers who all make the French Broad Food Co-op vibrant and successful! Thank you so much for your commitment to cooperative economics, environmentally sustainable food systems, and a healthy lifestyle! We are truly stronger together.
The Board of Directors of the French Broad Food Co-op
With an expansion we are talking about a development that could encompass a plot that is over two acres, right here in downtown Asheville – from the corner of Hilliard all the way up to City Bakery. This property faces both Biltmore Ave and Market Street behind us. So far we’ve hired a local firm called Civil Design Concepts to do a feasibility study which will give us multiple scenarios to consider, including not developing the whole thing, but just expanding our current store. Regardless, parking is a huge concern and would need to be addressed even for our current size.
Civil Design Concepts will also give us a determination of our return on investment and the best-use of the land in this area, while utilizing local resources for cost efficiency. We hoped to be able to share their results at our annual owners meeting in June this year, but their timeline was pushed back because of a recent move of their offices from Swannanoa River Road to Patton Avenue, here in downtown. That said, once we get the results, we will schedule another community input meeting like the one we just had on the Spring Equinox this year.
Leading up to hiring them for help in determining engineering potential, we spent a lot of lot of money getting two market studies done in 2009 & 2013 to help us understand the financial potential of our location, based on demographics and current grocery offerings in our market area. This type of study focuses on our specific industry and is a very important step in vetting any location and/or store size.
Here are the details we have thus far: the proposed store would likely be a little over 4-times our current size, which would still be considered “small” by industry standards – which in my mind means manageable. The bigger picture could, if we so chose, incorporate a mixed-use facility including offices, other retail storefronts, a green space, community space, increased parking and affordable housing, among other possibilities. A very real concern for some, is that this scenario would also likely need to include a space for various income-level housing structures, so we are looking at options.
The bottom line is that for a big project like this to succeed, which includes affordable housing and the rest of the “bigger picture,” which we received from input at the March meeting, we would likely need to subsidize it with a higher end housing model. The good news is that if we went in this direction, the site is so big, it’s possible to do multiple ventures without degrading the integrity of the grass roots nature of our co-op and we could come out of it debt-free. Regardless, whichever path we choose, we will make sure to see whether or not the market can bear what we propose to bring to fruition.
It’s most important to point out at this time that nothing is decided yet, as ALL we are currently engaged in is researching the suggestions made at the last community input meeting and seeing how we can make it all happen.
We are happy to answer any questions and concerns you may have, and we will be transparent throughout the entire process. We ask you to be open minded to various creative scenarios and as a reminder, we will have another community input meeting when we know more. Don’t forget that our board of directors represents you. Any concerns or questions you may have after this meeting can be sent to their email address at any time. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. That goes directly to them and staff does not have access to it. You can also reach our general manager at our info email address: email@example.com
Video of the Public Expansion Meeting held on March 21st, 2015