Central Co-op won't expand to complement light rail

Central Co-op won't expand to complement light rail

Central Co-op won't expand to complement light rail

Members of Central Co-op gathered at Washington Hall on April 23 for the annual owner meeting to discuss and make crucial decisions for the co-op’s future, and learned that an expansion to complement Capitol Hill light rail wasn’t in the cards.

During last year’s meeting, the co-op announced it would pursue the anchor grocer site at the Capitol Hill Station transit-oriented development project on Broadway. It even launched its own “CoopTheStation” campaign, where roughly 4,500 people signed postcards supporting Central Co-op as the tenant. There were also a lot of bananas handed out.  

According to acting CEO Garland McQueen, the excitement surrounding the 2018 opening of the transit-oriented development around the station has a flip side—it is not easy for diverse businesses to find an affordable location.

“If you speak with anyone else who was going to go into the station project and who has any kind of business, they will face the same kind of situation—the lease being pretty high,” the McQueen said.

McQueen wrote in a statement sent to the co-op’s owners after the meeting that developer Gerding Edlen’s plans involved a Request for Proposals outlining a cost-per-square-foot that the owners of the co-op considered much pricier than anticipated.

And so, Central Co-op announced its final decision Sunday afternoon — to drop the bid for the project.

“It was a very difficult decision as we know that we could bring Capitol Hill character to that spot better than any other grocer, but we must also be responsible stewards of the resources that our members have built up over the years,” the interim CEO wrote.

Despite this setback, the co-op is looking to grow and expand, which means there might be more new locations in the future.

“A co-op model is based on what the needs of the community are; it’s a very democratic model,” McQueen said. “In most cases, co-ops are owned by the people of the community it supports, so most of the money stays there. And co-ops are great to support other community businesses. It’s a business supporting other businesses supporting the people in the community. It’s a full circle.”

The co-op members also discussed their biggest project during the meeting—the search of a new location in Tacoma.

McQueen wrote that Central Co-op has finally identified a promising location in that area, and lease negotiations will start soon. He can’t offer more details about the process until it is over, but the co-op expects to have its new location by the end of the year.

“We want to offer our service to our members in Tacoma again shortly,” McQueen said. “Also, it will offer the opportunity to sign up and join us, for people who are not aware about what a co-op can offer. And finally, they can also invest in the business if they wish through preferred shares, which will be announced soon.”