By Brandon Kane, GreenStar General Manager

Hello, cooperative co-owners. I hope you’ve been able to enjoy the sunshine these past few weeks. This past winter felt like the longest in my 14 years of residing in Ithaca. On the plus side of the long and gloomy days of the last season, the Co-op Board and staff members working tirelessly on our West End expansion didn’t feel so bad about putting in the hours needed to move our project forward. I am truly amazed at the speed with which we’ve been able to reach our benchmarks.

I am equally in awe of the level of genuine support we’ve gotten from our community to help ensure that this expansion project comes to fruition. So far, our West End relocation has been a wonderful collaboration of GreenStar owners, Board of Directors and staff members, City of Ithaca staff and Board members, as well as an extremely able group of developers, engineers, and architects. Thanks to efforts from every stakeholder, we’ve been able to keep pace with our ambitious timeline.

In March, we held the special owner vote to allow our Board to negotiate a lease for the relocation of our West End campus (including our flagship store) to 770 Cascadilla St. More than 1,600 GreenStar owners voted, resulting in 93 percent in favor. Voters also passed an agreement to change our founding documents to allow for owners to purchase Investment Shares in the Co-op, which would pay interest to anyone in our membership able to invest in this expansion project. We’re in the process of registering this offering with New York State and will notify our Co-op owners when Investment Shares are available to you.

The project’s end goal is to open the new location for business by the end of December 2019. An expansion of this size requires a lot of time for development, so we’ve been busy making deadlines since mid-2017 in order to ensure we can achieve the opening by that time.

As of mid-May, we’ve started to finalize our floor plan and internal design, which will inform construction documents being drafted over June and July. The West End expansion is in the middle of a site plan review with the City of Ithaca, with the goal of approval by July. After that, we hope for just a few short months until we receive a building permit, so that construction can commence in the fall of 2018.

Once construction starts, GreenStar staff and Council will have time to focus on fulfilling the financing goals of this project, including a Capital Investment Campaign with our owners in the fall of 2018. After that, we’ll turn our attention to preparing to fit out and occupy our new space.

I can’t contain my excitement for what our new location will offer to our community and larger cooperative network throughout Ithaca, including our two sizable locations at DeWitt mall and Collegetown. Perhaps I’m most thrilled by the fact that we’ll have room to breathe for the first time in more than a decade. Wide store aisles, large sidewalks and outdoor seating areas, adequate parking, and an expanded one-stop-shop product line will enable us to provide a comfortable and inclusive shopping experience for all. I often think that the situation at the present West End creates a sort of submarine effect with shoppers practically on top of one another more often than not.

The current design includes a significantly expanded Fresh Foods Department, providing a restaurant within a grocery store. A full-service espresso, juice, and smoothie bar will complement our wide array of meal offerings, all of which will be adjacent to a café seating up to 60 at any time. The café opens up to two beautiful outdoor eating areas, which also surround our two planned classroom spaces, teaching kitchen included, within the store. These spaces will provide an invaluable resource to our community, which is in need of public and private meeting spaces for all the good work being done by our owners.

I hope to get finalized drawings of the floor plan and exterior site plan up on our website and blog by the end of June so you can see and share in this exciting process. If you have any questions or comments about our project, please do not hesitate to email and you’ll receive a prompt response.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support of our co-op’s growth and development. My central goal is to deliver on your expectations and provide the food cooperative that our community needs and deserves.