DRI Project Proposal

DRI Project Proposal

Downtown Revitalization Initiative

Potsdam has won $10 million in Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding and a committee of the Co-op Board spent January putting together a project proposal for some of that funding. The proposal is to act on our 2017 Market Study by expanding the store and greatly increasing our offerings. We proposed relocating to a larger commercial location at 63 Market St (the current Aubuchon Mall).

I’d like to take this opportunity to explain why we created a proposal, what our proposal entails, how we plan to pay for it, when this would happen, and the current status of our proposal.

Why did the Co-op create a proposal?

As costs rise for our store, we can only survive if sales keep pace. Our Market Study found that there is uncaptured sales potential in our market area. The Co-op has reached the limit on how much revenue can be earned at the current facility, which is small, has limited parking, and struggles with inefficiencies (ex. separate buildings, storage upstairs). In addition, our current facility is not ADA compliant. DRI funding would be a game-changer for the feasibility of an expansion/relocation project for us… so we gave it our best shot!

What does our proposal entail and what was the process like?

Potsdam won the DRI for the North Country region at the end of October. The DRI Local Planning Committee is looking for “transformative and catalytic” projects that will bring vibrancy to our downtown. At our November board meeting, we decided the Co-op should create a proposal. By mid December, we populated an Expansion Committee, which set out to put together a proposal that includes a narrative, budget, drawings, and letters of support… all within about a month!

In December, the Co-op Board agreed to engage Rebecca Weld of ReNeW Architecture and Design to help us create an architectural program (a spacial wishlist for a building project) to evaluate our options. We started by evaluating our current property. Because we own it outright, it seemed this might be the cheapest option, but we weren’t sure if we could expand to the extent that was recommended in the market study (including a significant increase in parking). Rebecca created a site design which increased parking, but there were hesitations about this option: Loading dock access for delivery trucks remained problematic and depended on removing the bakery or getting an easement, the store would be a construction site, with the potential for significant disruption of sales, and access would likely still be an issue in the finished store with two floors. We began evaluating other properties.

We considered five properties in total: 24 Elm (our current location), 63 Market (the Aubuchon Mall), the Market Square Mall, 75 Market, and a vacant lot behind 75 Market. Rebecca created budget scenarios for each. The Board ultimately chose 63 Market Street as the best option for our DRI project proposal to expand the store. There are many pros to this particular building:

  • Passive income from several tenants that would remain in the building and, over the long term, potential to attract synergistic businesses to the building

  • Space to meet recommendations and potential to expand further in the future. The building can accommodate not only increased retail area, but also office space, storage, a full service deli and community class space.

  • ADA compliance (both for shoppers and employees) could easily be attained with this building, whereas full compliance is not an option at our current location

  • Purpose-built commercial space that would be straight-forward to renovate

  • Well-positioned geographically to benefit from DRI money, and to satisfy the recommendations of the Market Study. It also has great visibility and walkability.

  • Twice the parking of our current location

  • Close proximity to other burgeoning organizations which stand to benefit from the DRI as well, such as the North Country Children’s Museum and the future location of the Arts Council. The building is close to the Raquette river waterfront, which is due to receive significant attention in the near future as well.

  • Space for Outdoor seating on wide sidewalk

  • Loading dock and storage ready to use

How would we pay for this project?

We requested about half of the cost of this project from the DRI. This would cover renovation, kitchen equipment, promotion (including signage and murals), permits and fees. The other half (purchase of the building, training new employees, increased inventory, store fixtures, loan interest, project manager, business disruption, overrun allowance) we would match in the form of grants, donations, member loans, bank loans, and the sale of our current property.

When would this happen, and what is the current status of our proposal?

At this time, we are pleased to report that it looks likely that our proposal will be included in Potsdam’s Strategic Investment Plan (we will find out in April). Then the SIP will be further evaluated by the state, and we expect to find out which projects will be funded by the DRI in August. If we are awarded DRI funding this summer AND we raise the match funding, the earliest the renovations would start is spring 2021. In the meantime, we will be pursuing other funding opportunities.

Transferable results

Whether we are awarded DRI funding or not, the DRI has motivated us to do some essential research into project feasibility, developing an architectural program, local properties, funding opportunities, and realistic budget numbers. These initial forays will help us evaluate other opportunities for expansion.

Member involvement

We were disappointed that involving the full membership in this proposal was not practicable given the timeline. We had to use every minute of free time in January to create a strong proposal because an opportunity for a local business to access this scale of funding is extremely rare and would greatly increase the feasibility of expansion. Still, the support of the membership will be essential in determining whether our proposed project moves forward.

If we get DRI funding there are many details to work out and help with. If we are not awarded DRI funding, we welcome your input and involvement in developing a new feasible expansion proposal with all that entails. Now is the time to chime in, help out, and secure a future for the Potsdam Food Co-op!

If you wish to see the full proposal, there are a few copies at the store for anyone to peruse and leave there.

View the full Downtown Revitalization Initiative

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