New Seward Co-op takes seed on Franklin East

Co-op plans on moving to an eco-friendly building twice the size of its current location.

Brian Kushida

As a cook at Seward Cooperative Grocery & Deli on Franklin Avenue, mathematics senior Tom Trogdon prepares soups, salads and entrées in a kitchen “about the size of a large dorm room” each night he works.

He said he tries his best to avoid bumping into bread-bakers and dishwashers in a tight space in the far back corner of the store.

“There’s definitely collision,” Trogdon said.

He and other employees can only hope a little bit of elbow room is in the works as Seward Co-op plans to expand in size at a new location later this year.

Patrons of the business act as members, owning and operating a cooperative business, which differs from most stores.

Owners of the cooperative grocery store plan to sprout their store into an eco-friendly building twice the size of its current address, allowing for the store to feature additional health foods and organic products produced by local entrepreneurs.

General manager Sean Doyle said the owners plan to move the store less than one mile east, to an area previously occupied by the Riverside Market grocery store on Franklin Avenue.

“Our goal is to make us a marketplace for people who have a good food-product idea and want to bring it (to us),” Doyle said. “We’ve always been that way.”

The co-op plans to purchase the property in June and begin revamping and expanding the store as early as July. If all goes as planned, the new location will open in April 2008.

The estimated $9.2 million project includes a grass-covered roof to absorb rain water, a courtyard with a seating area and a second floor with classrooms designated for cooking lessons. However, the plans are not all finalized.

While co-op members work with task forces and other advising groups from the Seward neighborhood, graduate students from the University submitted some of their own research for them to consider.

Graduate urban and regional planning student Jessica Horning conducted a market study of the East Franklin area with graduate students Tim Dykstal and Dan Patterson in the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs as part of a class presentation last semester.

The study included demographic studies, shopping patterns and recommendations for future business development. It also listed the grocer as one of the main business attractions for customers on Franklin Avenue East.

Horning said a potential impact on the area involves the Seward Co-op’s current location.

As an attraction and “main anchor” of business in its current location, Horning said a move could change the neighborhood’s dynamic.

The students’ research and analysis won’t go unused.

Development project manager Katya Pilling of Seward Redesign, a nonprofit organization helping to co-develop the new grocery store, said the students’ ideas will be taken into consideration in the planning process.

“They (compiled) some great data and presented it in a way that made a lot of sense,” Pilling said.