In 2016, the Co-op’s board and our General Manager Doug Johnson began working with Bill Gessner, a co-op consultant who has helped with hundreds of expansions. Bill and Doug toured the area to consider other sites, and then the Co-op spent years talking to owners about needs, conducting feasibility studies, and figuring out renovation costs. We encourage you to use these links to access the architectural plans, fixture plans, and a comprehensive summary to understand all of the intricacies of this exciting and complex project.
After years of work, the Co-op is excited to say that we have an affordable project that will meet the current and future needs of the Co-op and our community. This project was approved by the Board of Directors in July 2022 and in January 2023 we launched a successful capital campaign that raised $1.5 million dollars in Owner Loans.
Among the top priorities for the renovation are:
- Reopening the much-missed café and making it better than ever, with new services, new equipment, an updated menu, and an improved seating area, while keeping the natural light and materials everyone loves
- Continuing the Shop For Me service, which allows us to expand our accessibility
- Adding an additional 33% of retail square footage by relocating offices, prep spaces, coolers, and vents to other locations off the sales floor
- Expanding the bulk section with sanitary pull-down handle bins
- Reorganizing the parking lot to make it more pedestrian-friendly
- Investing in our infrastructure to keep the facility safe for all
Watch this space for more information as the project develops, tune into our board and community meetings for updates, or watch the weekly renovation update videos from the GM on our YouTube page.
Hello! And welcome to the outside construction update. We took the outside of the store from sad to fab in a few short weeks. We upgraded our parking lot with curbs and planned drainage and poured an outdoor patio for bikes, picnic tables, seedlings, and seasonal...
Renovation Has Begun!
The Belfast Community Co-op’s long anticipated store renovation began on Monday, May 15, 2023.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in the Co-op parking lot, attended by workers, board members, owners, the project design team, and community members.
Construction is currently happening in the Co-op’s basement. Disruptions to the sales floor are expected to begin in early September. Stay tuned for further developments!
TIMELINE OF OUR PROJECT
1963 A&P Grocery Store opens in the 123 High Street location
1993 Belfast Co-op Store moves into the 123 High Street location
2014 First Market Study from G2G Research Group
MAY 2016 Owner Forum on Future Development
OCTOBER 2016 Orientation to Expansion Planning Board retreat with consultant Bill Gessner
JULY 2018 First “Ready, Set, Grow” Belfast Co-op Owner Forum
2018 Shopper Satisfaction Survey
AUGUST 2018 Second “Ready, Set, Grow” Belfast Co-op Owner Forum
AUGUST 2018 We begin to work with Our Architects and Construction Group
OCTOBER 2018 Third “Ready, Set, Grow” Owner Forum talking about “How to Channel Growth”
JANUARY 2019 Fourth “Ready Set Grow” Owner Forum “Financial Feasibility”
December 2019 Due to financial concerns about building a new building all efforts were now focused on renovation
DECEMBER 2019 Engage NCG in picking up where we left off with Bill Gessner who passed away in early 2019
JULY 2020 First fixture plans were presented to the Board of Directors
FEBRUARY 2021 Scaled down version of fixture plan presented to the Board
FEBRUARY 2022 Renovation business plan sent to lenders
MAY 2022 Your Future Co-op video series was launched
JULY 2022 Board formally approves the project
AUGUST 2022 CFNE (Cooperative Fund of New England), LEAF (Local Enterprise Assistance Fund), and CEI (Coastal Enterprises Incorporated) approve loan to finance the project
JANUARY 2023 Fifth “READY, SET, GROW” Owner Forum
APRIL 2023 Capital Campaign succeeds in raising $1.5 million in loans from Co-op Owners
MAY 2023 Ground is broken on the Renovation Project
WHAT MAKES THIS RENOVATION NECESSARY NOW?
Improving the workplace for our employees, reducing costs, and becoming more environmentally friendly are important goals that we need to achieve. This is the perfect time to take action and make these changes. By redesigning our space, we can increase the retail floor space by 33%, create wider aisles, and improve the kitchen for prepared foods. We will also make the cafe area more comfortable and install a hydraulic lift to protect worker safety. In addition, our building will become more energy-efficient, reducing energy consumption and costs. We need to stay competitive, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Customers appreciate our local, independent, and trustworthy business, and we have a solid plan in place that we can afford.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS IS THE RIGHT PROJECT?
After conducting market and feasibility studies and seeking input from experts, the Board has evaluated various options for the Co-op’s future. These options included doing nothing, constructing a new store or mixed-use development on our current property, or purchasing and renovating a different building elsewhere. However, member-owners have expressed their desire for the Co-op to remain the anchor store of downtown Belfast, and for the café to be reopened. They also prioritize improving worker safety, supporting local farmers, providing equal access to nutritious food, protecting the environment, and promoting the cooperative economy. Ultimately, this renovation project is a means of reinvesting in the Co-op and our community.
HOW MUCH IS THE PROJECT PREDICTED TO COST AND HOW ARE WE PAYING FOR IT?
Our project has a total estimated cost of $6.4 million, which includes a 10% contingency on the whole project and an additional 8% for construction expenses. These funds will cover all costs related to the project, including the purchase of new equipment such as refrigeration, as well as paying off our $200K mortgage. We are using $923K of our available cash and have secured a $4 million loan from the Cooperative Fund of the Northeast in partnership with Local Enterprise Assistance Fund and Coastal Enterprises Incorporated. Our member-owner loan program has proven to be a resounding success, raising $1.5 million to support our overall financing. Launched on January 16, 2023, the capital campaign reached its fundraising goal through a combination of donations and loans by the time it ended on April 16, 2023. We are proud to have achieved this milestone and grateful for the generous support of our donors and members.
WHAT ARE THE PROJECT'S EXPENSES?
The actual construction costs are less than half of the $6.4 million dollar budget, totaling just over $3 million. The rest of the budget has been allocated to equipment purchases, financing, insurance, and other expenses. Additionally, nearly $1 million has been set aside as a reserve fund to cover any unexpected price increases or unforeseen expenses.
The Belfast Community Co-op is renovating its 60-year-old store to ensure it remains a safe and welcoming space for its current and future member-owners. The Co-op wouldn’t have started this project without a solid plan to pay for the work and repay the loans. As a result, the $6.4 million cost of renovation is more understandable when viewed as the sum of its many parts.
|Finance Fees & Interest||$140,000|
|Payoff Existing Loans||$217,354|
|Construction Bond (Insurance)||$301,884|
|Additional Inventory & Promotion||$60,000|
|Total Other Costs||$1,398,238|
|Contingency – Reserve Funds For Unexpected Expenses||$961,506|
|Total Budgeted Project Cost||$6,270,801**|
* Architects, Engineers, Legal, and Consultants.
** This amount is less than the originally announced $6.4 million cost due to changes in some projected costs since the project started.
HOW CAN I HELP?
- Shop as often as you can at the Co-op
- Pay up your Member-Owner Equity
- Invite your friends to join the Co-op or shop at the Co-op
- Like and share our social media posts
- Volunteer for one of our Co-op Board committees and consider running for the Board
HOW LONG WILL CONSTRUCTION TAKE?
Construction began in April of 2023. The goal is to have the grand re-opening in 2024!
WHO ARE OUR PARTNERS?
- Woodhull (formerly Caleb Johnson Studios), a Maine architecture firm, and Warren Construction Group, a Maine builder, are the partners that have experience with designing, building, and renovating retail operations in such a way that we can run a thriving business while all of this is going on. Warren Construction built the Portland Food Co-op.
- National Co+op Grocers, (NCG) is a business services cooperative for retail food co-ops located throughout the United States. NCG represents 147 retail food co-ops operating over 200 stores in 38 states. It has supported numerous successful co-op expansion projects with feasibility and market studies and helped to develop pro formas.
- Columinate is a national consulting cooperative serving mission-driven organizations, including food co-ops, electric co-ops, healthcare organizations, credit unions, schools, and nonprofits. It has guided and supported co-ops nationwide in raising millions of dollars for new stores, expansions, and startups.
- Our attorneys are Bernstein Shur in Portland, Maine
- Our tax preparer is Wegner CPAs.
DID THE CO-OP CONDUCT A MARKET STUDY?
Yes. Market studies and feasibility studies were conducted by G2G research and a pro forma was developed with National Co+op Grocers. The pro forma has been stress tested at every turn. Our Treasurer would be happy to meet with you and go over these evaluations at an arranged time.
WILL THIS EXPAND ACCESS TO QUALITY FOOD FOR ALL?
We are looking forward to seeing more of our neighbors choosing to shop at the Co-op. To better accommodate our customers, we have expanded our aisles, increased our shelf space, and improved our ADA access. We warmly welcome all shoppers.
WILL THE BUILDING BE MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT?
Absolutely! We’re upgrading the old infrastructure, which includes the electrical systems that have been in use since 1963, the HVAC system, and the single-pane windows at the front of the store. The café’s new bump-outs and curbside program will be constructed with top-of-the-line efficiency standards.
WHAT WAS THE RATIONALE FOR RENOVATING INSTEAD OF BUILDING NEW?
After conducting extensive research and considering feedback from owners, we have decided to proceed with a renovation project. We evaluated various options, including building a new facility in our current location with a developer, adding a second floor with low-income housing, or adding upper floors with high-end residences. We also explored the possibility of relocating within or outside of town. However, after careful analysis, we determined that these options would be financially unfeasible, even with a well-funded developer. Therefore, we concluded that renovation is the most viable option. We remained open to exploring other possibilities as they arose, and we dedicated the necessary resources and time to assess their feasibility.
HOW WILL THE CO-OP STAY OPEN DURING THE PROJECT?
This is obviously a top concern. Rest assured that we are working alongside experienced consultants and partners who have successfully managed similar projects under similar circumstances. While there may be some noise and disruptions, we are committed to ensuring that regular operations will be maintained throughout the renovation process.
HOW CAN OWNERS STAY INFORMED?
It’s important to stay informed as a member-owner! We welcome any suggestions you may have. Currently, we keep our members updated through in-store announcements, emails, electronic newsletters, and frequent social media posts on Facebook and Instagram. Our website is regularly updated as well. We also invite owners to attend our monthly Board meetings, and the minutes of these meetings are available in-store and online.
You can sign up for our newsletter here!
CONTACT US WITH ANY ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS!
General Questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Board Questions: email@example.com
Co-op Office: (207) 218-1099
The renovation project described above will cost a good deal of money, and the Belfast Community Co-op has three primary sources for funding. One is cash reserves, which we have built up a bit over the last few years. The second part is bank loans. The third is owner loans.
The thing that makes co-ops different from other businesses when considering a renovation is that we have the opportunity to go to our owners and ask them to participate in funding the project. Most businesses don’t get to do that.
The Co-op board launched a successful Capital Campaign in January 2023 and raised $1.5M in owner loans and donations in a three month period. Thank you so much to our campaign consultant, campaign coordinator, the outreach team, and everyone who loaned or donated!