City Beat

City Council to take up Natural Food Co-Op’s planned move tonight

The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-Op is moving forward with leaving its current home and building a larger facility along the burgeoning R Street corridor in midtown.

Co-op representatives will present their plans to the City Council tonight for a 42,446-square-foot center at R and 28th streets. The project received the support of the city’s Planning and Design Commission earlier this year, but that approval was appealed by one of the co-op’s members. City staff has recommended that the City Council deny the appeal.

The plans call for a two-story building that will include a new co-op retail space, a kitchen, classrooms, offices and a café. Balcony seating and windows will overlook R Street, where store leaders hope to build a corral for bicycle parking along a tree-lined street.

Co-op officials said the new location will provide a better link to light rail and provide better access for walkers and cyclists from the central city. The new store will include three to four times the number of bike parking stations as the current store at Alhambra Boulevard and S Street.

“The owners said they didn’t want a superstore, that they wanted an urban feel for the co-op,” said Steve Maviglio, the co-op’s board president.

The retail section of the co-op will expand from 12,000 square feet at the current S Street site to 16,500 square feet.

A parking garage and lot are also in the plans. Co-op officials said the parking options at the new facility will be twice what’s available at the current location, where a common gripe is the store’s crammed parking quarters. The new store and parking facilities will fill what is now a parking area for a nearby Sacramento County office and a vacant lot.

“The co-op is really one of the most dynamic stores we have in Sacramento,” said Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents midtown. “If you visit it, you see people from all the different neighborhoods of the city. (The new facility) will really help them grow because they’re really at the limit of capacity.”

The lone voice of opposition to the project has been Michael Garabedian, a Citrus Heights resident and co-op member who appealed the planning commission’s approval of the plans. In a 10-page letter to the city’s development department, Garabedian wrote the project would be “freeway-oriented” since it is close to the Capital City Freeway and does not meet the city’s urban design and general plan standards.

The Planning and Design Commission disagreed, voting unanimously to approve the project.

The project is being touted as a crucial step in the continued revitalization of the R Street area of midtown, which is still dominated by warehouses. Three dozen energy-efficient homes are being built at 25th and R streets and city planners envision the area as a transit-oriented mix of housing and retail connected directly to a light-rail line.

John Hagar, the president of the Newton Booth Neighborhood Association, said those living in the mostly residential part of midtown think of the co-op as a “positive addition” to the development already under way along R Street.

“You’re going to have more housing, more density, more people walking, more people riding their bikes,” Hagar said. “It’s all going to make it more of a neighborhood.”

Co-op leaders recognize their role in that movement.

The co-op addressed concerns by city planning officials and neighborhood residents that the facility would not blend well with R Street by including large windows and outdoor seating facing the street. Neighborhood residents also wanted the store to link with the adjacent Temple Coffee and Revolution Wines shops, and a pedestrian path will connect the stores.

“The fact that we’re going to be there with 3,500 to 4,000 people a day coming to our store is going to do a lot to activate R Street,” said co-op general manager Paul Cultrera.

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