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The Co-op is looking to members for expansion ideas.

There’s a buzz going around Elmwood that the Lexington Co-op has reached capacity and is beginning to look at options that could result in an expansion. Although The Co-op has been tight-lipped regarding possible options, there are some who feel that the market expansion could go in a few different directions. We have heard that a new build at the Benchmark parking lot (photo) across from Blockbuster might be a possible consideration, amongst other locations. If that was the case, then the current building could be vacated. Another scenario would place The Co-op in the both buildings, with the market occupying only half of the Benchmark location – the other half would be leased to another entity. These are all scenarios we attribute to “word on the street.”

Whatever ends up happening, it’s going to move forward with input by Co-op ownership. According to the information sent to members, The Co-op is currently the 17th busiest store (based on sales per square foot) in the country (based on sales per square foot) and is “busting at the seams.” Members have asked for more deli and grocery space, additional parking and a place to sit down to eat lunch. It is anticipated that the market will need twice as much retail space by the year 2015. The board is looking to engage the 7,500 owners in coming weeks in order to obtain additional input. From The Co-op:

Help Us Create a Vision for an Expanded Lexington Co-op!  Come to our Summer Owner Meeting next Wednesday, August 24 6:30-8:30pm at the Unitarian Church.  Hear about our commitment to expanding the co-op and share your vision for the Co-op of the future.  We’re very early in the planning stages, and we want to involve as many owners as possible in this discussion of what is next for the Co-op.  Read more in our newsletter. We’d love to have you there!  Can’t make it?  Email your thoughts to

Written by WCPerspective


Buffalo and development junkie currently exiled in California.

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  • skybox

    We need that parking lot because there isn’t enough parking along Elmwood or the side streets to support businesses. The lot is almost always full at night.

  • bobbycat

    St Gerard’s would be a good place to expand the co-op.

  • JSmith

    I think a second location (possibly not even in the Elmwood Village) would be much better than a single larger location. The last thing the Co-op or its neighborhood needs is for it to become a giant supermarket that requires an enormous parking lot.
    A local chain of small neighborhood stores that integrate well with their communities would be a pretty nice future for the Co-op.

  • townline

    I’m no parking fan, but there is no denying that these lots do help support this business district.
    This parking lot’s development would be a great opportunity for a public/private development partnership. Perhaps the city could provide an infrastructure investment by paying for the new building to include structured parking, while benchmark would finance the leasable space. It could really be a win win win. Spurring private development, enabling local business expansion, improving the density along this portion of the street, while providing necessary parking infrastructure that all of the businesses in this area need.

  • Rand503

    I agree. I do see the need for outdoor eating, and that’s an advantage to the Village. Not sure if they should have indoor eating — there are other places that offer that, and I would hate to see growth in the Coop come at the expense of other places, such as the European eatery across the street.
    I can easily see a branch at Grant Street — it’s not too far away for Villagers to get to, there is plenty of cheap space available and it would help the neighborhood.

  • townline

    Grant street already has Guercios, which is fantastic. I don’t think the coop would head there. Allentown might be interesting though.

  • Travelrrr

    How about Main Street downtown?

  • Greg

    I feel a Buffalo Rising Poll coming…

  • LI2Northpark

    How about a secong location on Hertel?? North Buffalo is an expanding community with enough people interested in healthy food and with some money to buy it. We don’t have a farmer’s market either so it would be a huge deal for us. There is also the new Colvin development going in which will expand the number of households with income to purchase the sometimes expensive fare at the co-op.

  • ke$ha

    Delaware Avenue in Kenmore. A far enough distance that you build up a new customer base while not cannibalizing your original location’s customer base, a decent amount of empty commercial lots with room for both an high traffic urban and plenty of parking.
    Delaware Avenue is ripe for revitalization and the co-op could be the new anchor of that. The neighborhood demographics certainly could support it, and a co-op satisfy the attempt at getting a Trader Joe’s by the Kenmore Village Improvement Society.

  • Chris

    I like the idea of keeping the current location and building a larger location as a consumer, but I’m sure logistically for the business it would make more sense to have one larger location.

  • ReginaldQMerriweatherIV

    The Coop should swap with Wilson Farms.
    -Take down the WF and the two beat up houses next to it. Build the new Coop on that corner lot.
    -Build a public ramp on the benchmark lot.
    -WF takes over the current Coop building.

  • ReginaldQMerriweatherIV

    -also, start carrying beer.

  • paulsobo

    Do something interesting with the architecture that blends into the period of the neighborhood.
    Do something practical that is beneficial to the neighborhood like putting apartments above the retail store…as we have seen in other recent Elmwood developments.

  • TranspoGuy

    I think Hertel would be a great location to expand. The neighborhood would really support it. Maybe somewhere between Parkside and Delaware?

  • LouisTully

    How impractical or improbable is underground parking?

  • RaChaCha

    I agree they should be looking at a second location to take the pressure off. I’d guess the biggest pressure of all is parking, as the more they have grown and the more excellent they have gotten they attract more people driving in from outside the neighborhood — and at peak times when Elmwood parking is most at a premium. Having a second location would help with that, as well as help anchor another of the city’s retail streets.

  • Lego1981

    Downtown DOES need a grocery store!!!!!!! Why not keep the current location as is and open a second store DOWNTOWN!

  • phrank

    Don’t forget that Wilson Farms will soon become a 7-11. I suspect a bigger Co-op will be needed to replace what WF offered the neighborhood. But how do you do that without becoming a big box?

  • N. Page

    Totally 3x the idea. We have to drive down to the Co-op from North Buffalo once a week to shop. One on Hertel would be amazing, we could walk to get groceries and coffee (once Spot is open) like we used to when we lived on Bidwell. Isn’t there a closed gas station on Starin and Hertel that would be ripe for rebuilding?

  • truestar

    My vote is to head for the Larkin District-it’s snowballing-with loads of potential, something like Lexington North and Lexington South.

  • Greg

    I think Downtown would be the best option because it’s outside the sphere of influence of its current store. That way, it’s not competing against itself. At the same time, it’s expanding its customer base.
    North Buffalo would be competing against Tops, Wegmans, and a variety of other minor corner stores.
    A Downtown Buffalo location would have no competition really.

  • fredrico

    They can expand without having to move at all. All they have to do is put large columns on the current parking lot and build above the lot. Put a few floors up there (above the current parking spot – leaving the parking spot for parking.
    Use the second floor for an inside/oustide patio deck eating area and deli etc. Use a third floor for whatever. Or move the current offices over the current parking lot and add a terrace patio on the second floor where the offices are now.
    Use more of the space they have now building upward.

  • paulsobo

    I agree that a 2nd location like Hertel Ave and Main Street by UB would be good. I wonder if South Park or Abbott would work?
    Im actually wondering if Elmwood is best for a bigger store and maybe the community should consider Delaware Ave…its a short walk…or Grant?

  • jwright

    Nah, the traffic on Main St poll has only been up for 8 months

  • jwright

    I’ve been shopping at the co-op-at least as a kid with my parents-right after they opened on Lexington. I was one of the minority that did not want them moving. Regardless, how old is the current building? And they need to expand already? Very poor planning. I thought the design was horrible, a two story structure that basically only had one usable floor?? If they do branch out I guess Hertel would be the best bet, though the other co-op (no relation to the Lexington) flamed out on Main St. not all that long ago. This sounds negative but it’s not meant to be, I love the place & wish them all the success in the world.

  • jwright

    Not sure if you’re joking, but that’s pretty damn creative.

  • LI2Northpark

    Most of the people I know who shop at the co-op also shop at Wegs, just for different items. If they were to look in the Hertel-Starin area it’s can’t be much closer than the current co-op is to Wegs. The main competition in the direct area would be Dash’s.

  • urbanbflo

    I have been a storeowner on this street for close to 20 years. This parking lot has been an eyesore on my block for as long as I can remember, despite my attempts to put lipstick on this pig with a few plantings.
    I would love to see this lot developed as a two, three or four story mixed use building. The Co-Op would be a welcomed edition. The idea of moving Wilson Farms (7eleven) to the Co-Op’s current location and developing Wilson Farm’s lot combined with the 770 is great.
    As far as the loss of parking if this lot is developed, the area does not need a parking lot it needs a parking plan, one which myself, EVA along with the former Commissioner of Parking, have submitted to the city. This plan would take the alternate side streets daytime parking in the immediate Elmwood corridor from its current no parking from 9am – 4 pm instead it would be no parking from 9am – 11am, This would open up hundreds of parking spots for residents and Elmwood customers. This could all be done as simply and cheaply as the cost of a small sticker that would just cover the current 4 pm to 11 am on the parking signs: hell– I will pay for the stickers out of my own pocket. So what is the problem, you ask? Well it’s public works. They claim they need that 7-hour time period to be able to clean the street in the summer and plow the snow in the winter. Now, one would ask how long would it really take to do this work? I don’t know but, I am sure it could be done in less than 2 hours if they planned for it. After all we are basically talking about Ashland and the side streets leading to and from it off of Elmwood Ave.
    So, the City needs to pass my parking plan and Benchmark lets build a building, more density on the street means a better neighborhood

  • johnnywalker

    Don’t know if it would be cost prohibitive for them, but they can always do what Whole Foods has done in both Philadelphia at South Street and Wash DC at Logan Circle. The store is built to the street with parking above. The parking is disguised to look like the floors.

  • LI2Northpark

    I agree. Why did they build a two story building and dedicate the entire second floor for office space? Weird.

  • LouisTully

    Isn’t it less about the age of the building or the planning that went into it and more about the explosion of the membership?

  • sobuffbillsfan

    I was going to post this exact same thing. That Whole Foods and the Superfresh there on South street in Philly are in a very similar area, regarding traffic congestion etc. The parking for customers over top the store is a great solution and could work for the co-op. From an operations standpoint adding a second location is a risk on Elmwood. You’re doubling your overhead while not really reaching any new clientel.

  • LouisTully

    Does Elmwood have building height restrictions?

  • dash

    Don’t mean to spoil the party but recent economic data foreshadows a recession in our near future. The risk of significant contraction is very high considering that our central planners’ bazooka stimulus of the last two years has apparently failed to generate real economic growth. Expanding a high-end boutique grocer at this point does not seem like a wise move.
    How about opening a second location that’s more like the original Coop? How about serving people that don’t have access to high priced, “organic” food. Food cooperatives used to be about lower prices through bulk purchasing by it’s members. Lexington was born out of the tumultuous period leading up to the 70s. We’re going through all that again now. It is not the time to move further away from where it came, but instead, Lexington should return to its roots.

  • Dan

    Greenstar Co-op in Ithaca has their main location about a mile west of downtown, and a smaller satellite location in downtown Ithaca itself. The downtown store is patronized mainly by people who work in the Commons area or who live nearby, and there’s no off-street parking.
    Maybe a satellite store in North Buffalo or Allentown? Zoning in EV limits the floor area of retail stores, and Lexington had to go through a lot to get a variance for the store they have now. They’d have an easier shot at approval in North Buffalo. It would also fill the void left behind by the demise of the North Buffalo Co-op years ago.

  • Dan

    Whole Foods also did this with their store in University Heights, Ohio. The area isn’t some dense urban neighborhood; it’s an inner ring suburb.

  • jwright

    How do you figure that? While it’s great that membership went up-but what is that, an $80 lifetime fee? On the other hand it was poor planning, two separate issues.

  • Mr. Underhill

    It sounds like keeping the parking lot is a lot less hassle to everyone involved. The parking lot needs more than a few begonias and marigolds to fix it up, it could use a nice decorative wall and maybe something besides concrete and steel barriers around the edges.

  • whatever

    Cleaning on side streets happens so rarely that it’s a dumb justification for the city to impose alternate side parking in non-snowy months.
    I doubt cleaning is the real reason anyway. My bet would be parking ticket $.
    For sure it would be a good quality of life improvement if the city suspended alternate side parking rules from May to September every year, but due to the parking ticket $ I’d be very surprised if they ever do. On the rare occasions when cleaning is planned for s street, they could post cardboard no parking signs like they do for special events and races.
    However for snowy months, I disagree with urbanbflo’s contention that a 2-hour range for plowing is practical even for just a few streets. There’s too many variables including time/duration/amount of snowfall. Alternate side parking is really needed for snow months, although the city’s enforcement is much more aggressive than necessary (writing $35 tickets 15 minutes after 9am or 4pm, etc. – just a revenue grab making city life more frustrating). There should be 1-hour overlaps where it’s legal to park on both sides year round.
    I also disagree with the idea that residential street parking could replace the Elmwood lot parking to which you refer. For one thing, how many blocks would it take to fit all of those cars? Also, not all customers/shoppers would be willing to park on a residential street – especially during cold-windy-icy weather, or even on rainy days.
    Residential street parking is more of a supplement to than substitute for the lot parking.

  • LouisTully

    You’re right. Poor planning. They suck. God forbid they not know how big they were gonna get.

  • fredrico

    No need to move – use the space above the parking for offices, then use the office space for a terrace indoor/outdoor eating area and deli, etc. A small esculator to get upstairs would be fun.

  • jattea

    In a perfect world, I’d love to see the Co-op in the Price Right space on Elmwood and North. That mini-supermarket is a weak spot on a convergence of Allentown and Elmwood that is ripe for some quality commercial tenants.

  • Dan

    What about the empty Vix store at the corner of Maple and North Forest in Amherst? There’s plenty of parking there, too!
    (turns and runs)

  • fredrico

    No – I wasn’t joking.

  • ryguy2404

    Love the co-op and would love to see it in North Buffalo, the empty lot or pretty much empty lot (old mechanics shop) on the corner of Commonwealth and Hertel would be an ideal location to build a similar building to what they have on elmwood. Spot coffee will be three blocks away and this could really transform North Buffalo into an even more desirable living destination. Definitely start carrying some craft beer as well!!

  • Daniel Sack

    The Coop does not “need” a larger store. But they may “want” a larger store. They may want a larger store to make more money. The Coop’s possible desire for a larger store does not meet the NY State and City of Buffalo zoning law requirements for granting an “area variances”. Currently the zoning allows:
    “§ 511-155 F.(d) A single-business outlet is allowed to have a maximum floor area of 2,500 square feet per floor and a 5,000 square feet maximum in a single building.”
    The present Coop building was granted a variance and their lawyer, Adam Walters, promised at the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing that the variance would not set a precedent for such variances in the future. It would be ironic if the Coop was the builder that asked that they should again be given a variance.
    What is wonderful about Elmwood is the small stores. The lack of a 13,000 SF RiteAid and Walgreen’s; both which would be on the street if the community did not fight against them.
    Large stores want large parking lots. Small stores do not need them. All new commercial buildings on Elmwood now need to be “mixed-use” as required by § 511-155 (recently revised – not yet posted in the Charter on the City’s website).
    Allow a larger Coop building and Walgreens and RiteAid will be in court demanding their right to build a large building.
    The Coop knows where their customers live. Simply build another branch at a location convenient for customers who don’t live near the existing location. Residences 360 degrees around Elmwood Avenue helps make Elmwood successful. Hertel Avenue also has residents north, east, south, and west; it may be a good location, or it may be too close to the existing location.
    Or maybe do nothing. Success isn’t bad. Expansion could be. The original owners of Spot Coffee were very successful – until they spent too much money building more stores.

  • biniszkiewicz

    those insisting that the Coop could just add an additional location instead of additional space are missing the point. If they did this, the Coop would just end up with two stores, both of which would be indadequate. I’m a member. Like many of you, I shopped at the Lexington location prior to this build. If you shop there, you know you’re not going to buy one set of items in location A and then go to location B for a different set of items. They need to be able to offer all the items at each location.
    As for the zoning restrictions passed a few years ago limiting development to only 2500′ per floor, I think that set of codes is ill considered and myopic. Exceptions should be granted. Bury parking, put parking on the roof, hide it behind stores, whatever. But limiting stores to only 2500′ is foolish and counterproductive, imo.

  • Daniel Sack

    biniszkiewicz – 2500 SF was the law from the 1980s. Just changed slightly so that a store with 4500 SF on first floor and 500 SF on second floor is not allowed. Small stores are what has made Elmwood unique and successful (imo). Area zoning is about the “building”, not the “business”. We should allow a food store to be larger, but not a drug store? Yes – Rite Aid is more than a drug store; and the Coop is more than a food store.
    Small stores help create walkable, sustainable communities; which is what we need more than a larger food store. Any business could justify being larger. Why not let Pano’s expand to the size of Salvatore’s Italian Gardens? I’m sure it would be hugely successful. Maybe you don’t like Pano’s or Salvatore’s but that is not a good enough reason. Zoning laws can’t and shouldn’t be written based on who likes a particular business; they should be written to control the look and feel of a neighborhood.
    If Coop shoppers like the look and feel of Delaware Avenue near Hertel perhaps the Coop should build a large store there.

  • KeepItSimple

    >Downtown DOES need a grocery store
    We have one. You can see City Hall from the Niagara Tops.

  • Billo

    Definitely makes more sense to add a second location rather than expanding the current one. Once you do that, you reduce the need for parking at the first location so you kill two birds with one stone. There’s a limit on how big individual locations can get in an urban setting like Elmwood, and I think the co-op is at that limit

  • grad94

    parking on top? broadway market did that in the 1980s.

  • knightabraxas

    I thought a grocery store would be PERFECT for the ground level in the new renovation at w mohawk and s elmwood. it’s window space is PERFECT for wholesome looking produce and and busy looking shoppers. would add a great feeling to downtown.