New Pi Co-op Members Vote ‘Yes’ to Move Downtown Iowa City Store

By Vanessa Miller, Reporter

New Pioneer Food Co-op at 22 South Van Buren Street in Iowa City as seen on Thursday, June 17, 2010. (Matt Nelson/SourceMedia Group)

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By Aaron Hepker

A majority of the New Pioneer Food Cooperative members who chimed in on a proposal to move the downtown Iowa City store have voted “yes,” meaning the natural food grocer can forge ahead with its plans to erect a “significantly” larger store with more parking and seating.

The co-op’s board of directors in February announced plans to bid on four parcels of land that the city has made available at the corner of Gilbert and College streets with the goal of relocating the downtown store from 22 S. Van Buren St. Building a new store one block southwest from the current location is budgeted to cost up to $8.5 million.

Property bids on the land are due to the city May 1, but the co-op needed approval from its membership before bidding on the site for relocation. The ballots were mailed out to the co-op’s 25,000 members on March 1, and they had to be returned March 31.

The co-op said it would move forward with the plans if a majority of the members who voted were in favor of the idea.

Vote tallies released this morning show that about 90 percent of the respondents favor the move, said Jenifer Angerer, marketing manager for the New Pioneer Co-op. Of the 3,345 members who voted, about 3,000 voted “yes,” Angerer said.

“The next step is to submit a proposal to the city,” Angerer said. “We already have been talking with contractors.”

If the city accepts the co-op’s bid and the project moves forward, Angerer said, the new store would sit on the northeast corner of Gilbert and College streets, site of the former John Wilson Building and a Greyhound Bus terminal. It would use two levels of the nearby parking ramp to offer more customer spaces. Outdoor seating would overlook Chauncey Swann Park.

The new building likely would rise five to eight stories, and the co-op would cover 22,000 square feet as the first-floor anchor business, according to co-op officials. The current store, which has been at its Van Buren Street location since the mid-1980s, uses about 9,000 square feet.

“Now we wait on the city to make a decision,” Angerer said. “We’ve made it through the first hurdle.”

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