A mutually positive and ongoing dialogue between People’s and all parties impacted by the expansion characterizes the project’s predesign process.
Years before People’s had the financing to expand, the co-op formed an expansion committee and wrote an expansion mission statement that spelled out their goals for the project and provided a tangible reminder of the high standards that they wished to uphold. Project designer David Wadley notes that a pervasive ethic of environmental stewardship among co-op members made integrating sustainability into the expansion process a no-brainer, "we didn’t really make a big deal out of the process…sustainability was a natural and we didn’t have to push it". As financing came together, the committee selected a general contractor who had a proven track record, fair price and openness to sustainable building thus balancing People’s expansion objectives.
Some time after People’s occupied the building in 1970 the district was rezoned to "residential" which rendered expansion plans contingent upon obtaining a variance from the local zoning ordinance. To do this, People’s met with the local neighborhood association a number of times to alleviate their concerns about potential increases in traffic, noise, and general pollution of the neighborhood. This preventative approach created a forum to address potential points of contention while they could still be compromised via dialogue, not expensive alterations or litigation. In addition, they pointed out to the City that this building housed a neighborhood grocery since 1918 and it was thus an integral component of the neighborhood’s urban fabric.
People’s distributed a survey to their customers asking them to rank their objectives for the expansion and over 87 percent ranked environmentally friendly design and use of sustainable materials as "very important" or "important". They also made pamphlets available in the store that answered what they anticipated to be the 16 most commonly asked questions regarding the future expansion. These efforts, among others, gave customers and members partial ownership in the project.
Keys to Success - Predesign:
- Form a project committee to discuss potential opportunities and hurdles to integrating sustainability into the project
- Develop a mission statement to serve as a guide and reminder of the project goals
- Select a general contractor who is knowledgeable, or open to, sustainable building
- Provide the means for the local community to learn about and comment on development plans
- Plan for the building to be an integral and positive participant in the greater community
- Survey building users to inform the establishment of project priorities