News Feature

Blue Hill
Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 24, 2014
Blue Hill Co-op celebrates 40 years, reveals relocation plans

The future Blue Hill Co-op

An architectural drawing of the future Blue Hill Co-op, which is relocating to South Street in Blue Hill, Maine. The store purchased the property in June 2014.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Stahnke

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The Blue Hill Co-op plans its future
Architectural drafts of what the future Blue Hill Co-op may look like inside, and where it will be sited. The store purchased property on South Street in Blue Hill, Maine in June 2014, and is planning its new store.

by Anne Berleant

The Blue Hill Co-op threw a picnic to mark its 40th anniversary, sharing plans, drawings and a site walk-through for its proposed building on South Street. The event, open to the public, was held outside at the Bay School, just across the busy street from where the new store will be located.

“Vegan to the left, meat to the right,” produce manager Andy Felger directed the line at the dual grills.

Apart from food, music and conversation, architectural drafts and a drawing, created by Bruce Stahnke of Stahnke + Kitigawa of Harborside, were displayed on easels under the tent. The site itself was marked with yellow tape to show the footprint of the building.

The drawing, Stahnke said in an interview, represents the “beginning, not the end stage of the design.” This is typical of the architectural process, he explained, where plans are created “in order to understand the feasibility” of a proposed building. For the co-op, the drawing will also be used for “the purpose of fundraising.”

However, a few pieces of the project are set, including a design goal to build a store that produces as much energy as it uses, an approach new for grocery stores, Stahnke said, where energy consumption is typically high.

“At this point, it is a target rather than an actuality,” he said, but the one-story building is already designed with “a fairly efficient envelope” that is sited to take advantage of southern exposure and will use waste heat from refrigeration units to heat store space and water.

The 9,715 square-foot building will contain a retail area of 3,206 square feet, a cafe of 1,935 square feet with seating for 40 inside and 20 outside, a 344 square-foot community meeting room and parking for 73 cars, according to an information sheet made available at the picnic. In addition, the produce area will be doubled and there will be a fish, meat and deli service, wider aisles and more check-out lanes.

The board voted to exercise its option on the 5.5 acre parcel on June 17, at a purchase cost of $144,000. About 10 percent of the price was paid when the co-op purchased the two-year option in October 2012. Stahnke, a member of the relocation committee, declined to reveal the projected cost of the building at this time.

However, fundraising will soon begin. The board plans to form a committee led by fundraising consultant Gary Friedmann, in mid-September, in order to create a feasibility study of “possible sources of funding, including through member loans and the sale of preferred stock in the Co-op,” according to information available at the picnic.

Creating a pedestrian-friendly environment on South Street, heralded by the board as an opportunity offered by the relocation plan, is part of the architectural design, with the store placed on the front of its lot to lessen the distance from the street. The entrance faces south, where the parking lot will be located.

The Co-op hopes to partner with the Blue Hill Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and local merchants to help create a South Street that is “mutually beneficial, more pedestrian and like downtown.” There is money available from the Maine Department of Transportation for the project, Stahnke said, which the town government could apply for. “It’s a step process, and we’re at step zero for that,” he said.

Warming up for the Blue Hill Co-op annual picnic

Tobin Felger, of Penobscot, Maine munches an appetizer before the main course at the Blue Hill Co-op 40th anniversary picnic, on July 20 in Blue Hill, Maine.

Photo by Anne Berleant
The future Blue Hill Co-op

An architectural drawing of the future Blue Hill Co-op, which is relocating to South Street in Blue Hill, Maine. The store purchased the property in June 2014.

Photo courtesy of Bruce Stahnke