Downtown food co-op gets funding

Elm City Market, the “food co-op” scheduled to open just blocks from Old Campus, took a big step forward last week.

In a press release Wednesday, New Haven-based Webster Bank announced its commitment of $4 million to finance the opening of the co-op. Expected to employ about 100 people, the co-op will buy more than 50 percent of its products from local producers and be owned locally by members who share equity, according to general manager Mark Regni.

The co-op is scheduled to open in the ground floor of 360 State Street, a high profile mixed-use development designed by Bruce Becker’s SOM ’85 ARC ’85 Becker + Becker architecture firm.

Becker said the co-op is especially needed in what he called an “urban food desert,” where residents cannot buy affordable, healthy food.

While a Stop & Shop will soon replace the Shaw’s that closed last year on Whalley Ave., Becker said, there is still a need for more than just one grocery store with healthy foods.

The co-op will also benefit the community by letting its members, mostly New Haven residents, keep the profits from sales. Members pay $200 to share equity in the co-op, which entitles them to annual dividends and discounts at the co-op.

“It reinvests in the community and strengthens the community,” said Becker.

Webster Bank’s decision was made possible through a federal loan approved by the United States Department of Agriculture, part of a wider policy initiative to fund sustainable local agriculture. The USDA Rural Business Services and the Connecticut Development Association entered a multiparty credit agreement with Webster Bank that provides the co-op with an interest rate on its loan well below average for similar projects, said bank regional president Jeff Klaus.

Originally scheduled to open this spring, the Elm City Market is now scheduled to open sometime this summer, Regni said.

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