Easthampton approves plan to build River Valley Co-op
Daily Hampshire Gazette, March 26, 2019. By Luis Fieldman.
River Valley Co-op expects to open its second store during summer 2020 at the location of the former automobile dealership Fedor Oldsmobile Pontiac on Route 10.
The cooperatively owned market will construct a 22,000-square-foot store, and it will help finance infrastructure improvements to address city officials’ concerns of traffic at the corner of Lyman and Northampton streets.
“We want to take a little pressure off of our Northampton store, and this opening will allow us to add more co-op owners in both locations,” said Rochelle Prunty, general manager of River Valley, on Tuesday. “It will also really help expand the market for all our local farmers and food producers.”
The new co-op will better serve its nearly 1,700 co-op owners in the Easthampton and Southampton area, Prunty said. The co-op in Northampton has a total of 10,500 co-op owners.
Captain Jack’s Roadside Shack, which is on the market’s property, will lease from River Valley and remain open for business.
“We’re gonna stick around,” said owner Kevin Sahagian, who said he appreciates the community members, restaurant owners, and farmers who came forward to express to River Valley their desire for the restaurant to stay.
“Supporting local businesses is core to what we are about, and this seems like a great match,” Prunty said.
River Valley was granted a special permit by the Easthampton Planning Board last Tuesday after two months of public hearings.
The project is estimated to cost $17 million, Prunty said, which covers the purchase of the property, the site work, construction of the store and improvements to Lyman Street.
The new location will create 75 jobs, Prunty said, and she expects that number to increase to 100 within a few years.
Plans also call for a 200-car parking lot with solar-covered carports, which are overhead canopies, above most of the parking spaces. Prunty said River Valley is awaiting a total number of solar panels from engineers, but the store is hoping the solar panels will power 80 to 85 percent of its electrical needs.
There will also be a large plaza area along the south side of the main entrance to the store to form an outdoor café and seating area. This area will extend over to the front of Captain Jack’s and will function as an outdoor dining area for both businesses.
During the public hearing process, Planning Board members were concerned about the potential impact River Valley could have on traffic along Route 10. River Valley agreed to donate a small triangle on the corner of Lyman and Northampton Streets to the city.
The city will then realign Lyman Street to improve traffic turning south onto Northampton Road. Currently, Lyman meets Northampton Road at a 45-degree angle, and the city will realign the street to a 90-degree angle for a wider turning radius for larger cars, according to City Planner Jeffrey Bagg.
The money for changes to Lyman Road could come from Chapter 90 funding, where municipal capital improvement projects are refunded by the state, or out of the city’s funds, according to Easthampton Department of Public Works Director Joseph I. Pipczynski.
Large trucks are prohibited from traveling down Lyman Street from Florence Road, and abutters to the new River Valley site wanted assurance that would continue to be the case. River Valley agreed to require vendors in writing to access the property for deliveries only from Route 10, according to the special permit decision.
River Valley also agreed to put up signage warning large trucks not to use Lyman Street to get onto Florence Road.
Since Route 10 is under the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, other potential improvements to Northampton Street would have to come from the state, Bagg said.
The timing of the light at the intersection of O’Neill and Northampton Streets could be adjusted to reduce the amount of congestion from cars traveling on Route 10. A left turn lane on Northampton Street into River Valley for northbound traffic could also be added by the state agency, according to Bagg.
Prunty said the co-op is more than halfway to its goal of fundraising $5 million from co-op owners with $2.2 million raised so far.
Luis Fieldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.