French Broad Food Co-op seeks community input on expansion plans

Photo from French Broad Food Co-op's Facebook page.

Since its genesis in the 1970s as a food-buying club based out of members’ homes, the French Broad Food Co-op has undergone myriad changes and experienced enormous growth. Today, the cooperative natural food store owns its own buildings and property at 76 Biltmore Avenue free and clear and, despite competition from numerous larger chain supermarkets, does a robust trade as the only grocery in that area of downtown.

With that success, the cooperative has laid the groundwork for a major expansion that could impact the south part of downtown. On Saturday, March 21, the grocery will — in characteristic cooperative spirit — host a facilitated discussion to solicit input and ideas from residents on the proposed plans before moving ahead with the initiative. Members of Asheville City Council and architects involved with the project will be on hand for the meeting.

According to general manager Bobby Sullivan, plans include a parking garage and much more. “I’m hoping we’ll be able to put in a stairway that will go between [the Biltmore Avenue storefront] and Market Street,” Sullivan says, referring to a steep hill behind the co-op.  Such additions, he points out, would allow pedestrians to easily walk from the Eagle-Market streets neighborhood to Biltmore Avenue businesses as well as permitting co-op shoppers to access the store without having to navigate Biltmore Avenue traffic.

The meeting is open to the public and is scheduled to take place 3-5 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at 76 Biltmore Ave. (in the building next to the French Broad Food Co-op, formerly Build It Naturally). Refreshments and childcare will be provided. Local illustrator Caryn Hanna will record the discussion in images.

Here is a press release from the French Broad Food Co-op with more details:

Asheville, NC, March 13, 2014– In recent years the Co-op has been busting at the seams with growth and opportunity. As Asheville’s only community owned and nonprofit grocery, the Co-op serves Asheville in ways that no other grocers can. It is time for the Co-op to grow. Debt free and owners of large parcels of land in downtown, the Co-op recognizes this opportunity may be larger than just a grocery store. We want to hear from the community about what their visions for the South end of downtown are.

“FBFC has been a trusted community institution in Asheville for 40 years. As Asheville continues to develop around us, we need the input of residents. The Co-op is on the verge of transforming the South end of Downtown and this is a vital opportunity to expand and preserve the community of our city” Josh L, Instructor of Sustainable Technologies, AB Tech

A facilitated discussion will take place March 21st, 3-5 pm at 76 Biltmore Avenue in downtown Asheville, adjacent to the Food Co-op. Light snacks, refreshments, and childcare will be provided. Community Members are invited to share their visions, ideals, and concerns. The discussion will be captured on paper by local graphic facilitator, Caryn Hanna.

“Asheville has a rare opportunity to create a destination in our downtown that is envisioned and owned by the people that live here and care about the future of Asheville. Together we can do amazing things for the local economy” Sage T, Project & Finance Manager FBFC

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About Gina Smith
Gina Smith is the Mountain Xpress Food section editor and writer. She can be reached at gsmith@mountainx.com.

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