The Co-op had planned to open a second retail site at Metropolitan Place II (MPII) at the end of this month—the opening is on indefinite hold. The Co-op’s ability to move forward on the downtown site construction remains on hold while the developer, Buckingham LLC (Fisher managing member), grapples with the pending foreclosure by the bank on the property. The news of the default on a $26 million loan became a matter of public record almost as soon as the paperwork was filed.
To put it mildly, I am disappointed in the developer. I feel I should also say that this developer is not alone; other developers in Madison have also suffered with the downturn in the residential condominium market beginning last year.
In the weeks that followed our learning about Buckingham’s inability to meet the agreed-upon lease obligations, the Board and management team discussed what we thought our options were and designed a plan to move forward through this mess. Much of the conversation was speculation because we did not have enough information. But, the group was able to establish goals on which to focus —determine a plan to make MPII work (or clarify an exit plan for MPII), communicate with members, staff, and stakeholders, create positive cash flow, and look for new growth options.
The group agreed that the number-one priority was to determine a plan to make MPII work. The will of the group was to work to preserve the member’s investment of $350,000 that has been spent on the site thus far and the commitment to staff hired for the downtown store, not to mention give the owners a second store! Making MPII work meant we had to understand with whom to negotiate (the developer or the bank or the court-appointed receiver), manage expenses, maintain sales growth, and develop an action plan.
Management is considering our options. Communication about our action plan is difficult until we learn the developer does x, or the court does y; it is unwise for us to continue to speculate. I acknowledge that the information I have included today will be out-of-date by the time this issue goes to press. In order to keep you apprised of information pertinent to MPII, you can check the website: www.willystreet.coop “Update on Downtown Store.”
The Co-op will move through to the other side of this mess—the exact outcome is unknown—but we will move through it. In the meanwhile, some of what we do is business as usual—selling groceries. Sales are strong—8 percent above budgeted forecast. Additionally, the proposed bylaws have been included in this issue for you to consider. The Community Reinvestment Fund grant applications are being reviewed this month, and awards will be announced in May.
If you have any questions or comments please contact me. I can be reached at 251-0884 x470 or. I remain focused on figuring out a solution. Thank you to those who have expressed their support of the Board and staff during this difficult period. We are committed to making the best decision we can, under the cirucmstances, for our organization and all our members.