LIFT-UP and other food vendors are investigating the possibility of using the former City Market site in Carbondale, along with the former Emma store, as possible food hubs and distribution hubs.
LIFT-UP executive director Ivan Jackson said the nonprofit was working with the owner of the 45,000-square-foot supermarket in Carbondale on a possible sale. The site has excellent vehicle access and parking, he noted. The downside is the expense for acquisition and renovation.
The old store has been vacant since Kroger built and opened a new city market a short distance from the old store in August 2020.
The Emma store has charm but is hampered by poor access off Highway 82 and lack of parking.
“In any site, there are pros and cons,” Jackson said.
The former city market site would provide a centralized warehouse, canning and quick-freezing facility, and space for a thrift store. It is envisioned as something more than a destination where people would periodically come for food. Farmers could display their products and there would be enough diversity in services to attract a wide range of consumers.
“(To) reduce the stigma surrounding food insecurity, the property could become a vibrant community center with a cafe, cafe, farmer’s market, etc.,” said a memo to Pitkin County Commissioners from county staff. .
County commissioners approved additional funding of $22,000 at a recent meeting specifically to help assess the Emma Store site. The county had already approved $16,000 for the appraisal.
Board chair Patti Clapper noted that members of the public had expressed concerns about potential traffic hazards on the site.
“I just want the audience to know that it hasn’t been chosen yet,” she said.
Jackson said LIFT-UP worked with Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties to create “a regional food hub, which would serve all three counties.” Other entities working to ensure food security in the region have joined the effort to find ideal sites.
The former Emma store and the former Carbondale supermarket provide central access to the valley.
“Pitkin County and LIFT-UP have agreed to evaluate the potential of both properties in a feasibility study,” the staff memo to county commissioners said. “First, Emma buildings will be evaluated to determine a set of use cases they are suitable for, then regional market research will be conducted to determine the optimal uses for each building, and how their occupants can work collaboratively to meet needs across the region.”
Once the feasibility study is complete, the partners can assess progress at both sites, one, or none, Jackson said. Everything is on the table. The study is expected to last approximately six months.
Pitkin County Executive Jon Peacock said Monday that commissioners have yet to discuss what role, if any, the county will play in establishing the food centers. He noted that commissioners have shown an interest in increasing food security.
“We will probably be involved on some level,” he said.