March 13, 2012

Collegetown Residents React to Plans for Grocery Store

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On Tuesday, the Collegetown Neighborhood Council — along with the student organization,  DesignConnect — solicited feedback from Cornell students and local residents on a new potential grocery store in Collegetown.

Both the CNC and DesignConnect intend to use feedback obtained from the meeting to pursue their plans to develop the store.

Logan Axelson grad, a member of DesignConnect who led the session, said he hopes the grocery store, if built, will fill an existing need for access to fresh produce among Collegetown residents — particularly students.

“Our purpose is to increase access to healthy food for students, as well as help them make good nutrition choices,” Axelson said.

A new grocery store in Collegetown could also make the neighborhood a “yearly community,” said Alderperson Graham Kerslick (D-4th Ward).

“We need more than a grocery store; we need better selection of stores to make a more vibrant Collegetown,” Kerslick said.

The first of five informational stations presented at the meeting was the “Food Learning Hub,” where Prof. Jennifer Wilkins, nutritional sciences, administered a survey in which students were asked to rank their levels of expertise in preparing food, as well as their levels of interest in learning such skills.

According to Wilkins, if the survey shows there is a strong demand for doing so, the grocery store could include a station designed to teach cooking skills.

“Community members could come to take a class on making vegetarian meals, and the store would promote the ingredients of that week’s class,” Wilkins said. “It would be a place where students could talk about food issues and truly learn from expertise from Cornell, the community or the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.”

The second station, “Food Choices,” asked students to indicate what purchases they believe could be classified as “essentials,” “occasionals” and “special treats.”

This questionnaire was designed to determine what factors underlie food choices, as well as to gain a general overview of the future demands the grocery store may face, according to Molly Riordan grad, a member of DesignConnect.

In the third station, called “Ask a Grocer,” Brandon Kane, the general manager of GreenStar Natural Foods Market, answered questions about his proposal to open a new GreenStar grocery store in Collegetown.

“We’re working with a 2,600 square-foot model that works great in Collegetown due to its rectangular shape, unlike the L-shaped building at [DeWitt Mall],” Kane said.

A GreenStar in Collegetown could offer students a delivery service and increase the amount of organic produce sold in the area, Kane said. Additionally, he said that prices for items in the Collegetown store would match those offered in the existing GreenStar in DeWitt Mall.

At the fourth station, “Transportation and Walka­bility,” community members were presented with different scenarios in which they indicated their preference for driving or walking, taking into account factors such as variable weather and the availability of parking.

John Mueller ’13, undesignated at-large representative for the Student Assembly, said that the steepness of Cook Street could deter potential customers from walking to the College­town store.

“I’m here to make sure there’s a positive representative for the students. It’s important to have students involved in College­town issues,” Mueller said.

Original Author: Kevin Milian