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Renovations for the Belfast Community Co-op get underway

The price tag is $6.4 million. Some are skeptical about rewarding returns on the investment.

BELFAST, Maine — Renovations for the reimagined Belfast Community Co-op are underway.

City officials and some residents say they are excited about the upgrade, but a few are skeptical about the price.

Longtime shoppers at the Belfast Community Co-op knew the finds at that shop could be golden.

Kristin Robinson, a fine arts photographer, moved from New York City to Belfast in 1986 and has shopped at the co-op ever since.

The co-op, Robinson recalled, was a "tinier" little cute store, where the Green Store is now on Main Street in Belfast.

What started as a small shop in 1976 has evolved into the Belfast Community Co-op today.

Robinson said, “They had to move, expand, and low and behold, look at it! I mean, it has just blossomed!"

Now, more growth is needed due to increased demand for amenities and local products.

“Belfast people have been talking about how to expand the store. So the fact that all that time and effort and love and resources have gone into this, the fact that we are actually doing it now, it's remarkable,” says Doug Johnson.

Johnson is the general manager for the co-op. He says the $6.4 million upgrade, which broke ground on Monday, is overdue. However, that price tag’s struck a chord with some, like Steven Boas, a board member of the co-op.

“I've been looking through what the board's been talking about while they've been making decisions on this project. And, initially, [it] wasn't going to be so expensive. But as the price was going up, they kept going forward,” said Boas.

Out of the $6.4 million required for the renovations, $1.5 million was raised by co-op members. And $4 million was privately funded.

Most are optimistic about the benefits of the project, says Amanda Cunningham, executive director with Our Town Belfast.

“It is how much the community got behind this. Everywhere from city hall, all the way down to the owners who provided loans for them to be able to have capital in order to make the renovation happen,” expressed Cunningham.

The reimagined space will include a new curbside pick-up area, a new eat-in cafe, and increased shelf space. These are amenities longtime shoppers said they're looking forward to seeing.

Before Robinson’s mother died, she recalled, “My mother would come up, and she'd say, 'Why don't I have a place like this in New York?'”

Organizers hope to open the new space in spring 2024.

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