Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, October 05, 2018

October is Co-operative Month

Only because I came across a recent edition of the Greenbelt News-Review community newspaper did I learn that October is 2018 CO-OP Month.

There is an exhibition on the National Mall in Washington DC this weekend called the

-- 2018 Co-op Festival

They expect 20,000+ attendees and more than 25 exhibitors.

From time to time I write about co-operatives in the context of retail, not so much in planning.  There are two types of co-operatives.  Business cooperatives organize people/firms together to conduct business, while community cooperatives organize individuals together to conduct joint activities on a non-profit basis.

-- Cooperatives for a Better World

1. Communities as cooperatives: Greenbelt, Maryland.  But with planning, Greenbelt, Maryland has an interesting history in both cooperative housing and the development and maintenance of cooperative businesses, such as the community supermarket.

-- The Greenbelt Cooperative: Success and Decline, Cooper and Mohn, University of California Center for Cooperatives, 1992

The Greenbelt Museum is a public museum interpreting the history of the community.

2. Housing cooperatives.  The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has a strong co-operative housing network for student housing, which in turn has helped to support the development of non-student housing cooperatives elsewhere in the city. For a long time, the "trade association" North American Students of Cooperation (NASCO) was based in the University of Michigan Student Union, although now it's based in Chicago.

The famous Dakota "apartment" building in Manhattan is a cooperative.

Multiunit buildings organized as cooperatives are a form of high-income housing that tends to be present in larger cities like New York City.

It's also seen as an opportunity as a way to deliver permanently affordable housing.

-- National Association of Housing Cooperatives
-- "Housing cooperatives in the USA," NAHC
-- "Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives: A review of the literature

3. Utility cooperatives.  Some rural areas created utility cooperatives to deliver electricity and phone service.

4.  Business-to-business cooperatives.  In many places, farmers have organized cooperatives to conduct business activities on behalf of all the members. Land O Lakes butter is produced by a cooperative.  So are Sunkist citrus fruits.

The Bike Cooperative is an organization that supports independent bicycle retailers.

Retail buying groups are a form of business cooperative.

5.  Coops as a way to maintain retail businesses in rural communities.  In the UK, the Plunkett Foundation and in the US the Center for Cooperatives at University of Nebraska Extension have active programs promoting community cooperative organizing efforts as a way to maintain rural retail.

-- "The need for a new rural community cooperative movement," 2017

6.  Food cooperatives are probably the most widespread example of retail-community focused cooperatives.  Supermarket business organizations like Wakefern (Shoprite), IGA, and Associated Food Stores of Utah are examples of business cooperatives serving individual members, although sometimes these organizations own stores as well as supply members.

-- books

Retail/community food cooperatives that people think of when they think of such things are more like the Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn ("History of the Park Slope Food Coop," Grub Street), Weavers Way in Philadelphia, etc.  Minneapolis-St. Paul and Seattle are known for having a large number of attractive and successful food co-ops. In Seattle, it's mostly the Pacific Consumers Co-p, although there are others.

-- National Cooperative Grocers Association

They aren't easy to organize.  I remember one effort that came to nought in the H Street neighborhood c. 2003-6.  A group is trying to organize one in Salt Lake City currently, the Wasatch Cooperative Market.

7.  Bike co-ops are another type of community organization effort, where people come together to operate programs to provide bike repair and service to community members.

8.  Co-ops as an option for retail delivery in urban underserved communities.  I've argued this can be a way to seed retail in revitalizing communities of all types, including large cities.

The Pogue's Run Co-op in the neighborhood of East Indianapolis and Mariposa Co-op on Baltimore Avenue in Philadelphia are examples.

-- "Pogue's Run Grocer food cooperative, Indianapolis," 2018

9. Food co-ops as anchors of mixed use development. Seattle, Rochester and Minneapolis in Minnesota, and other cities are prominent examples of food co-operatives as anchors of mixed use developments. Sadly, that's not likely to be happening with the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op here.

-- "The lost opportunity of the Takoma Food Co-op as a transformational driver for the Takoma Junction district," 2018

10.  Food cooperatives as anchors for fair trade retail districts.  Although, generally, food cooperatives tend to be located in higher income neighborhoods as their organizers tend to be values-driven consumers.

I've written about Weavers Way Co-op in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia and how it demonstrates that cooperatives can be anchors of fair trade oriented commercial districts.

-- "Weavers Way co-op looks back at 40 years in Mt. Airy," WHYY-FM/NPR
-- "Food co-ops as potential anchors of "ethical commercial districts," 2013

11.  Employee-owned retail business cooperatives: formal.  Interestingly, the Glut Food Co-op in Mount Rainier, Maryland is a business cooperative, organized by the original founders as an employee owned business functioning as a cooperative. Red Emma's Bookstore in Baltimore is organized the same way.

12.  Employee-owned retail business cooperatives: informal. It's no longer in operation, but the way that the old Silver Spring Bookstore was organized was like an employee owned coop.  Three people came together, recognizing that they couldn't mount a successful store on their own. What they did was coded each book to who "owned it" and shared responsibilities for operating the store during working hours, and split the proceeds depending on whose books sold.

13.  The National Co-operative Bank as a lender.  The NCB lends money to business coops, housing coops, etc.  I've argued they're a potential resource for mixed use developments involving food cooperatives.

-- "Strengthening Communities through the Power of Cooperation: National Cooperative Bank," Cooperatives for a Better World

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