We're so excited that folks have checked in with impressions and questions about our schematic design floor plans, which we announced here. We want to share what we've heard so far and offer a few replies, so here goes...
(We've edited things some for clarity and space savings.)
Silvia: "Wow! It all looks very well thought out. Kudos to all who worked on it! Since I walk with a cane, I am wondering though about accessibility for people with mobile limitations. I also walk slow when I'm without my cane, so perhaps a gentle reminder posted somewhere to help us remember this is a space shared by people with various capacities?"
Chicago Market: We asked Silvia to clarify what accessibility means to her.
Silvia: "Accessibility, for me, are aisles that are not too narrow, or that have bins & such (full of products) that can cause bottleneck-like "traffic flow". I'm also wondering if there will be a space for community gatherings/classes?"
Chicago Market: Like all this feedback, we've shared Silvia's accessibility comments with our design team. And yes, Silvia, we do anticipate using our cafe space as flex space for gatherings and events. When we need more room, we'll work with nearby partners like our friends at Truman College who have generously offered us use of space for larger gatherings. This lets us reach out and be a connected part of the community.
Eric: "In the spirit of "trust and verify", I want to be sure the basement has been explored for water control/flooding. French Tile Drain? Sump Pump? Permeable paving anywhere feasible? Cachement areas?"
Chicago Market: Fair question! The basement is damp now and we're in discussions about remediation. No question we need to resolve that before build out so that the basement remains dry. And speaking of permeable pavers, our parking lot is built of exactly that!
Anni: "Last year we visited friends who live in Brooklyn, and spent quite a bit of time at the Whole Foods store in Gowanus, solely because it had a very small indoor playspace next to the dining area. It was AMAZING. There were just soft floor mats and two kinds of blocks for children to play with, but it was busy and lively every single time we were there. Very clearly a meeting place for families in the neighborhood. Would love to see something similar in our area!
Chicago Market: We've seen kid-friendly things in the cafe spaces of co-ops around the country and agree this helps draw and hold families, so we'll be sure our design team looks at this idea.
John and Gail: "Interesting... thanks for sharing. A couple of thoughts: Floral takes considerable floor space. Is there going to sufficient return? Would it be missed if not there? And secondly, are just 2 handicap parking spots enough?"
Chicago Market: For the floral question, this space is the historic staircase. So, we actually can't put much product in that space. Currently, the Board is thinking the floral department will help to beautify that space in addition to some kind of rotating local art piece at the top of the stairs. As for the handicap parking question, we'll check in with our design consultants on that.
Sylvia: "I love it. Especially excited for the 28-seater cafe!"
Matt and Rebecca: "Do I spy a lactation room? VERY HELPFUL!!"
Lissa: "Very exciting plans! Can't wait to see it starting to get built and coming to fruition.
Maybe I've been in the grocery business too long (Lissa works at the Sugar Beet!), but I did notice a couple things and wanted to take the time to reach out. Having worked in departments with service counters for many years, I would suggest creating a break in the long line of your plans that runs from the cafe to meat/seafood - it may seem counterintuitive, but having an opening to be able to get to the sales floor from behind the counter without having staff walk around/walk through other departments means they are more efficient, and are able to take care of customers more easily (since you frequently need to come around from behind the counter to help someone find something or answer a question.)
Also, I'm not sure what the access is to the loading dock, or how large-sized trucks are getting in to the dock area, but I am curious if there is enough wiggle room in/around the dock access."
Chicago Market: Thanks for your professional input, Lissa! We'll definitely have our design team look at your "counterintuitive counter" suggestion! As for loading, we know we'll have semis coming to the store, but it's a reality of the site that they can't get into the parking lot. We'll plan for a loading zone for them at the north end so product can be ferried around the corner and plan for all other "cube" trucks to back into the loading area in the lot.
Ellie: "I looked at the plans and the interior looks really great to me! I do have one question/concern, though. Looking at the plans makes me realize how much space will be devoted to car
parking. While I understand that the market probably feels they need to offer free parking to be successful and reach a broad audience, I'm concerned about two things:
First, providing free parking means that the cost of parking gets passed on to all customers and owners, even if they walk/bike/take transit. Since the market wants to remain accessible to nearby neighbors and low-income families, this is concerning to me.
Second, subsidizing and encouraging private car use to a location that is extremely transit/bike/walk accessible is not exactly sustainability thought leadership.
That being said, even though I usually shop for groceries by bike and transit, I understand that the co-op may need to make efforts to attract people who choose to shop by car. (I myself have shared access to a car, but I limit my use of it for climate reasons.)
I wonder if the market has considered any ideas to address this. For example: perhaps the parking can be validated, and store prices can reflect the cost of subsidizing parking, but customers who don't validate parking receive a discount. (That way car drivers don't feel like they're being charged for parking, but they are still paying their fare share. It would also limit unauthorized free use of the lot.)
Of course, the store can be designed in other ways to be friendly to people who don't drive: adequate bike parking, an area near the entrance to stash strollers or hand carts, etc."
Chicago Market: We love that our Owners like Ellie push us to make good sustainability decisions. The parking lot question is a great example of something Ellie hints at - that although we are an aligned group of Owners when it comes to thinking sustainably, there is diversity in our Ownership base and the Board has to tread a middle ground for all Owners. We have Owners who walk and bike and take public transportation and we love that the Gerber building makes us accessible to those folks; but we also have Owners spread widely across the north side and moms with kids who have told us they really want to drive to their grocery co-op. The Gerber building accommodates them too! And we also know that people with cars make larger grocery purchases, something we all want for our store because it means we're selling more and impacting our local farmers, food producers and employees.
As to the cost of the parking lot impacting our product cost unduly for people, we feel we negotiated a pretty low rate for use of the parking lot and don't think that cost will have much impact on the prices at the register. But there's nothing stopping our general manager and team from doing things like bike/pedestrian/transit discounts for people to encourage grocery shopping without a car, so we'll be sure to pass that info along to our team when they're in place! And our design team will definitely take note of the stroller and hand cart parking idea. Thanks, Ellie.