The ongoing effort to start a food cooperative in Elgin is dealing with an unexpected blow -- finding a new space.
The group that wants to start Shared Harvest planned to open in an empty area of the Ziegler's Ace hardware store building at 215 Spring St. in downtown Elgin. Shared Harvest signed a rent-free lease through 2027, stipulating it would pay for interior work.
It turns out the space needs more work than anticipated and the cost is prohibitive, board President Pam Echevarria said.
"We all had our hearts set on (the Ziegler building)," she said. "It was on a busy corner, it had parking. We were very disappointed to have to come to terms with the news we were going to have to find another building."
A structural engineering study last month recommended extensive work to the cement slab floor, Echevarria said. The building is still settling because there is a natural spring that runs underground.
Building owner David Ziegler said the lease was canceled in a mutual agreement.
"We all knew that the building had a slope in the floor. When the structural engineers looked into it, it became clear that the investment to stabilize the floor would be more than what the Shared Harvest would economically, or reasonably, be expected to put into a building," he said. "Especially a building that isn't owned by them."
The Ziegler space was about 6,500 square feet with no kitchen, so the co-op planned to outsource preparation of food such as sandwiches and soups. The ideal space would be 10,000 square feet with a kitchen, but the group needs to do careful financial planning, Echevarria said.
Shared Harvest will hold a meeting open to the public at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Elgin History Museum, 360 Park Ave., where board members will outline options for locations and business models.
"We want to really get input from our shareholders as to what they want us to do from this point forward," Echevarria said. "Do we start an online store (first)? Go to a smaller storefront? Or continue on the path of finding 10,000 square feet of real estate downtown? We are committed to staying downtown."
Opening the co-op is estimated at $1.6 million. The group secured more than $340,000 in loan commitments -- which it needed to extend -- and planned another loan campaign in the spring. Its financial plan calls for $250,000 from the city, but the city council would have to sign off on that.
Nearly 1,000 households have bought $100 shares for the co-op, which hosted a successful fundraising farm-to-table dinner in September, Echevarria said.