Old Emma store, former supermarket space in Carbondale will be studied for ‘food hub’ sites | AspenTimes.com

Old Emma store, former supermarket space in Carbondale will be studied for ‘food hub’ sites

LIFT-UP and other food providers are looking into the feasibility of using the former City Market site in Carbondale, as well as the old Emma store, as possible food hubs and distribution centers.

Pitkin County is teaming with the food providers to fund feasibility studies for both sites. The budget is $92,000.

LIFT-UP executive director Ivan Jackson said the nonprofit organization is working with the owner of the 45,000-square-foot supermarket space on a possible sale. The site has excellent vehicular access and parking, he noted. The downside is the expense for acquisition and renovation. The old store has been vacant since Kroger constructed and opened a new City Market a short distance away from the old store in August 2020.

The Emma store has charm but is hampered by poor access off of Highway 82 and lack of parking.

“In any site there are pluses and minuses,” Jackson said.

The old City Market site would make it possible to centralize a warehouse, a canning and flash freezing facility, and space for a thrift store. It is envisioned as something more than a destination where people would periodically pick up food. Farmers could display their products, and there would be enough diversity in services to attract a broad range of consumers.

“(T)o reduce the stigma surrounding food insecurity, the property could become a dynamic community center with a coffee shop, café, farmers’ market, etc.,” said a memo to the Pitkin County commissioners from the county staff.

The county commissioners approved an extra $22,000 in funding at their meeting last week specifically to help assess the Emma Store site. The county had already approved $16,000 for the assessment. Board chair Patti Clapper noted that members of the public have voiced concerns about potential traffic hazards of the site.

“I just want the public to know this hasn’t been chosen yet,” she said.

Jackson said LIFT-UP has been working with Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties to create “a regional food hub, one that would serve all three counties.” Other entities that work to provide food security in the region have joined in the effort to find ideal sites.

The old Emma store and the former Carbondale supermarket provide central access in the valley.

“Pitkin County and LIFT-UP have agreed to evaluate the potential for both properties in one feasibility study,” the staff memo to the county commissioners said. “First, the Emma buildings will be evaluated to determine a set of use cases to which they are suited, then a regionwide market study will be conducted to determine the optimal uses for each building, and how their occupants can work in collaboration to serve needs across the region.”

Once the feasibility study is completed, the partners can assess moving forward on both sites, just one or neither, Jackson said. Everything is on the table. The study is expected to take about six months.

Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock said Monday the commissioners haven’t discussed yet what role, if any, the county would play in creating the food hubs. He noted the commissioners have displayed an interest in increasing food security.

“We’ll likely be involved at some level,” he said.

(Editor’s note: This story was corrected to show the total cost of the feasibility study will be an estimated $92,000. The cost will be shared by Pitkin County, LIFT-UP and other partners.)



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