CSU gives Frigo Vert $100,000 for move, renovations
Broken walls, regular flooding, a leaking ceiling and a lack of accessibility: these are just some of the reasons the Frigo Vert presented itself Concordia Student Union (CSU) at council on March 9. The student-owned health food co-op, long located across from the Hall building, hoped to resolve these issues by moving to a new location. The CSU agreed it was within their mandate to help financially, granting the Frigo Vert a one-time $100,000 contribution.
The money was earmarked not only to assist in moving costs, but also to renovate the new space—a total cost of approximately $150,000. To date, the co-op has accepted $30,000 from various grants to pay for the improvements. The CSU contribution brings the total funding provided to the co-op at $130,000, covering all but $20,000 of the expenses.
The Frigo Vert acknowledges that it has an emergency fund totalling $200,000, but its report presented to council claims depleting the fund is “not organizationally responsible [or] financially sustainable.” The rent in the new space is reportedly “much higher” than that of the old location, leading them to seek out alternative sources of funding.
The motion to assist the co-op was met with resounding support at council.
“This is a no-brainer,” said Marcus Peters, a CSU councillor representing Arts and Science. “We have the mandate, we have the funds, and this is exactly the kind of thing we should be promoting.”
“This project is super awesome,” said Gabrielle Caron, CSU sustainability coordinator. “I think that accessibility is something that’s lacking on campus … and I think that this is a great role model that we can look up to, and I hope that it’s something that can keep going.”
The CSU motion cited the union’s mandate to “actively [support] affordable, sustainable, and student-run food service initiatives on campus,” and claimed that the accessibility initiative “creates a unique space on campus accessible to all students, raising awareness for inclusivity of all types of bodies on Concordia’s campus.”
The vote passed with no opposition.
The changes proposed by the Frigo Vert include interior ramps for wheelchair accessibility, a second cash register to shorten lines, an accessible gender-neutral bathroom and space for allergen-free products.
Prior to the decision to move, the co-op went to their landlords to ask them to repair the old space. However, despite legal letters and formal addendums to the lease, “no repairs have been done” according to the Frigo Vert’s council report. “Short of taking the building owners to court for negligence of urgent and necessary repairs,” reads the report, “[the Frigo Vert] exhausted all other reasonable avenues.”
Renovating the old space themselves would have cost the co-op an estimated $200,000—a figure that made the decision to move into the new space “easy” according to the report.
Two real estate agents were hired to find the organization a new space, which culminated with the Frigo signing a 10-year lease at 1440 Mackay St. However, the space was reportedly not ready for use.
“Our landlord gave it to us as an empty concrete box,” said Frigo representatives at the March 9 CSU council meeting. “So we’re here to ask for help.”
The Frigo Vert accepted a mid-level bid from MRCO Construction, who has experience previously working on grocery stores. The total cost of the renovation and move was budgeted at $151,967.39. The accessibility features alone cost more than $43,000. According to the Frigo Vert report presented at council, the majority of the cost comes from “necessary amenities like gyprock, drywall, bathrooms, and lighting, [which amounts] to at least $80,000 to $100,000.”
Despite the renovations, representatives for the Frigo Vert said the space was worth it.
“In general, it’s going to be a newly-painted, welcoming clean space,” said a Frigo Vert representative. “Considering that our current space is falling apart, it’s been very difficult to maintain a clean, friendly and welcoming atmosphere.”
“I’m really enthusiastic about the project,” said CSU general coordinator Terry Wilkings. “I look forward to frequenting the space once it’s done.”
The space was slated to open for business March 14. However, the project reportedly encountered construction issues that delayed the opening. “We are hoping to open at some point this week but we are not sure yet when that will be,” wrote the Frigo Vert on its Facebook page. It is unclear if the delays will result in a higher cost associated with the project.