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Dorchester Community Food Coop gets a home

Posted by Patrick Rosso  June 12, 2013 12:22 PM

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The Dorchester Community Food Coop now has a home after the city tentatively designated the Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation the developer of a city-owned parcel at 191 Bowdoin St.

This is a major step for the store that aims to provide nutritious, affordable food to the residents of Dorchester and the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s a very big day for the coop,” said Jenny Silverman, the project manager for the coop. “It takes what was a nice idea to the reality stage.”

The 10,778-square-foot city-owned lot will be combined with a 30,000-square-foot parcel adjacent to 191 Bowdoin St. that is owned by Dorchester Bay. Once combined the lots will house a LEED certified Silver two-story building with space for both the grocery store and ground-floor retail, as well as room on the second-floor to house administrative offices for the coop and another organization, according to Jeanne DuBois, the executive director of Dorchester Bay.

“I think this is the right project for the area,” said DuBois.

The land will be turned over by the city to Dorchester Bay once it has raised the funds to move forward with the project. Dorchester Bay will maintain ownership of the building and property once the project has been completed.

If Dorchester Bay, however, doesn’t come up with the estimated $10 millon to $11 million for the project in a year, it will lose its designation.

“[The coop] will bring good, affordable food and an anchor store to the community,” said DuBois. “An anchor business like this is what Bowdoin Street always needed.”

The coop, which will be member owned, has found many supporters as it organizes.

Silverman said so far more than 250 people have signed up for the $100 memberships, which along with fund-raising and grants will help support the cost of opening and maintaining the store.

The group still needs to raise a hefty amount of cash before it can start purchasing products, hiring staff, and designing a store layout.

Silverman said the group would eventually like to have 1,000 members before it opens and needs to raise close to $2.5 million. She did, however, say that it should be easier now that the store has an address.

“For people looking to join, they now can see where it’s going to be, which makes it a lot more tangible,” Silverman explained. “It should give a nice boost to membership.”

The parcel at 191 Bowdoin St. was once home to a gas station and was acquired by the city in 2001 through a property tax foreclosure. Prior to Dorchester Bay’s designation, a series of community meetings were held to develop a Request For Proposal for the site, which Dorchester Bay applied for.

“We’re very excited to provide the tentative designation,” said Sheila Dillon, director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, which managed the property. “We think it’s a great proposal and will revitalize a vacant, underutilized corner and will bring quality food to the community.”

The emphasis on quality food at the right price by many of those involved in the process is at the core of the project and the push for a location in Dorchester.

“We want to increase the number of healthy food options in Dorchester and particularity in Bowdoin/Geneva,” said Silverman. “We know a coop is beneficial because it will be community owned and reinvest those resources back into the community.”

To keep costs down much of the food will be sold in bulk and will concentrate on staple items. In addition to selling food, organizers expect the store to act as a community gathering place.

More information about the coop and those behind it can be found here.

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Email Patrick D. Rosso, patrick.d.rosso@gmail.com. Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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