Linden Hills Co-op has $1 million toward move

Linden Hills Co-op members rang in 2010 by committing more than $1 million to finance the move from 43rd Street and Upton Avenue to 3815 Sunnyside Ave. The co-op still needs $500,000 before Jan. 31 to meet its goal of $1.5 million in member investments to secure the new location.

Written and verbal loan commitments have ranged from $2,000-$100,000, said co-op spokeswoman Jeanne Lakso. The average loan amount has been $7,500.  

If the pace keeps up, the co-op needs between 75 and 100 more investors, Lakso said, or a few really big investors.

As of Jan. 7, 105 members had signed loan papers. The co-op has about 5,200 members, which includes 100 new members who joined since the loan drive began Nov. 1.

Only members can contribute because the co-op is a for-profit business. Prospective members must purchase co-op shares in the form of a one-time $80 buy-in.

Some legal requirements prevent the co-op from utilizing conventional advertising means like printing in newspapers or airing commercials, Lakso said, but the co-op has been passing out investment information packets in the store, sending weekly emails, updating its newsletter and utilizing social media outlets to inform and appeal to the growing membership.

“It has been an unpredictable process,” Lakso said. “There will be 10 pledges in one day, an unexpected $20,000 commitment, and then there will be days where there is nothing at all.”

The Seward Co-op at 2823 E. Franklin Ave. had about two years to raise a similar amount of money, she said.

“The short timeline is our number one challenge,” but raising the substantial amount of money is doable, she said.

The $1.5 million needed in loan commitments is just under half of the overall price tag for the project. Approximately $3 million will cover renovating the new location, purchasing new equipment, adding green space and incorporating a larger community room. Moving the solar panels from the current co-op location, something members have requested, is projected to cost an additional $20,000, although those details are still being worked out, Lakso said.

The co-op is also looking into Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, something co-op management initially said it would not seek because of the added expense. Lakso said if the $1.5 million goal is met and the project begins as planned, the co-op would apply for LEED certification and collect data for a year. The earliest anticipated certification would be in the fall of 2011.

If the co-op does not hit its fundraising goal by the end of the month, it will renegotiate a lease at its current space.

Co-op leaders announced plans to move to the 50-percent larger former Almsted’s Sunnyside Market building in October. The decision was made to keep up with the needs of the co-op’s rapidly growing membership base.

Dave Luger, who owns the building the co-op is in now, recently launched a blog to get community input on a new tenant. The blog is at 55410renew.blogspot.com.

But some co-op members are hoping a new tenant won’t be necessary. Linden Hills resident and co-op member Eric Utne sent an open letter, which he and seven others signed, to co-op members earlier this month pushing for the co-op to stay where it is. The letter argued that the co-op is the heart of the neighborhood and moving it could put surrounding businesses in jeopardy and deteriorate the node’s self-sustainability.    

It proposed purchasing and expanding the existing site instead.

“We sincerely believe the decision to move is well meaning, but not in the best interests of the Linden Hills neighborhood,” the letter said. “It’s not too late to reverse the decision.”

A community discussion on the move was planned for Jan. 21.

— Jake Weyer contributed to this report