Northside's Community Development Corporation Now Owns the Planned Home of a New Cooperative Grocer

Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Development earlier this month purchased the former Save-A-Lot building on Apple Street in Northside, the planned home for cooperative grocer Apple Street Market

Dec 3, 2018 at 11:23 am

click to enlarge The former Save-A-Lot building in Northside - Photo: Nick Swartsell
Photo: Nick Swartsell
The former Save-A-Lot building in Northside

Northside’s community development corporation closed on a building just a block from the neighborhood’s bustling business district Friday, paving the way for a community-owned grocery store there.

After Cincinnati City Council's approval, the City of Cincinnati provided a $515,000 Community Development Block Grant earlier this year to Northsiders Engaged in Sustainable Transformation (NEST) to purchase the former Save-A-Lot building on Apple Street. NEST purchased the building earlier this month for $435,000, and has plans to rent it to Apple Street Market, a cooperative grocery concept.  

NEST says that arrangement means the building will be put to good use for the community whether or not the market succeeds. Establishing Apple Street will cost roughly $4.7 million, organizers believe. The market has already secured most of that funding via loans, grants and New Market Tax Credits.

“Worst case scenario, the building is a code-compliant upgraded white box space perfect for the right commercial development, giving NEST the ability to chose a tenant that is right for the community,” former NEST Executive Director Stefanie Sunderland told City Council last year prior to a council vote to award the grant. Sunderland noted that Northside had received just $195,000 of the roughly $264 million in block grant money the city has doled out in recent years. Downtown has seen more than $93 million from that funding source, and other neighborhoods like Madisonville, Oakley, Bond Hill and more have also received tens of millions of dollars from the federal grants.

Since it was founded in 2005, NEST has completed 22 housing renovations and the construction of four new houses in Northside. The group has also secured 14 houses as affordable housing.

Sunderland left the executive director role in October. Northsider Sarah Thomas has taken the position. She says NEST will expand from its residentially-focused efforts to also take on commercial redevelopment projects like the Save-A-Lot building.

Apple Street would be the first grocery store in the neighborhood since Save-A-Lot, a budget grocer, left Northside in 2013. Both the Northside Community Council and the neighborhood’s business association backed NEST’s bid to acquire the building.

The city’s economic development department wasn’t convinced of the market’s viability, however, and said the city shouldn’t fund grocery stores.

“While it’s certainly an interesting structure, it’s not something that we’re comfortable with at this point,” Greg Huth, interim director of Cincinnati’s Economic and Community Development Department, told council last year.

Hanging over the Apple Street plan are the difficulties faced by Clifton Market, another cooperative market two miles up the road in Clifton. Shareholders there voted last week to sell the market to a private owner after big struggles meeting its projected sales numbers, keeping its cash flow up and competing with a new Kroger location nearby in Corryville.

But Apple Street Market says its plan is much different. The market is owned by both workers and community members, market leaders say, and has based its business plan on very conservative estimates — assuming it will gross lower than the $69,000 a week in business that Save-A-Lot did profitably before its owners moved it out of the neighborhood.