The opening of a food co-op at 360 State St. in downtown New Haven has been delayed three months until March 2011.
Before the grocer can open on the ground floor of 360 State, the largest private construction development in New Haven’s history, Becker + Becker Associates, the project’s developer, must raise $7 million, said the company’s president, Bruce Becker SOM ’85ARC ’85. As Becker + Becker continues its fund-raising efforts, the developer is making a special effort to market the forthcoming co-op to members of the Yale community. “There is no question we’ll be able to raise this money, it will just take us another month or two,” Becker said. “I’m pretty bullish on it.”
Downtown New Haven has been without a major grocer since March when the Shaw’s supermarket on Whalley Avenue closed.
Currently, the co-op’s directors have a conditional commitment from the project’s major underwriter, a private pension fund, to fund the co-op. But Becker + Becker must raise a portion of the total cost for designing the co-op, $7 million, before the pension fund provides the remaining capital.
Josh Brau SOM ’12 FES ’12, who worked with Becker on opening the co-op this summer, said the pension fund will cover at least half the store’s costs,loans and private investors will provide at least a third,and less than 10 percent will come from the Cooperative Fund of New England, an investment firm that contributes to socially responsible organizations.
At least four institutional lenders have already committed between $500,000and $1 million, and half a dozen individuals have committedan average of $250,000 to the co-op, Becker said. He added that the remainder will come from whatever money they can raise from community members who purchasemembership in the co-op.
Still, Becker said his company does not yet have the equipmentand machinery in place to open the co-op. Becker + Becker expects to order the equipment in the next 30 to 60 days, and it will arrive between three and four months later.
“The design and shell of the store are complete,” Becker said.
To assist in the opening, planning and layout of the market, Becker + Becker conducted a nationwide search this summer to find a general manager for the store, to be called the Elm City Market. In the end, Becker + Becker was able to hire its first choice, Mark Regni, who has opened eight stores for the Whole Foods and the Wild Oats organic grocery chains and has worked for 35 years in the food industry, Brau said. Regni did not respond to requests for comment.
One of the co-op’s primary goals, Brau said, is to market itself to the Yale community.
“If it’s anything like we envision it to be, it’s going to be a really terrific store,” he said. “But it’s not going to happen without very strong community involvement,and it won’t be possible without [the help of the] Yale [community].”
Also responsible for helping Becker + Becker get the co-op off the ground isMichael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, Associate Vice President of New Haven and State Affairsand one of the seven original incorporators of the co-op, said he and his colleagues are responsible for catalyzing community interest in the project.
“We are laying the groundwork,” he said.
This fall, Becker + Becker is launching a campaign to convince Yale and New Haven community members to join the co-op when it opens and purchase stakes in the venture, which will cost $20 each and entitle holders to a share of the co-op’s profits.Community members can also purchase Elm City Market memberships, which cost between $200 and $250 and entitle holders to discounts.
A public meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. at Hillhouse High School to present the co-op to the community and attempt to attract potential investors.
Correction: Sept. 7, 2010
An earlier version of this article mistakenly reported that Becker + Becker, the developer of the 360 State complex, must raise $7 million before a pension fund provides additional capital for the site’s food co-op. In fact, $7 million is the total cost of designing the co-op, and there is no strict amount at which the pension fund will contribute funding. The article also misspelled the name of Josh Brau SOM ’12 FES ’12.