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Market inches closer to reality

Many more shares must be sold, but group tentatively leases Broadway space

The inner Northeast Portland residents who are trying to create a community-owned grocery and cafe on the ground floor of a condominium building have accomplished one significant goal for their novel project: They have a tentative lease on the store location.

But the residents still have some major work and a major deadline in front of them: The group needs to sell about $240,000 worth of additional shares in the project by Nov. 15 as a condition of the lease. The group has so far sold about $360,000 in shares.

'It's still quite a ways to go,' said Ankist Zadeyan, a former assistant store director for Wild Oats Markets who is formally called the group's chief optimist officer. 'But we're confident the interest and investment is out there. We feel like the (lease agreement) is something very tangible. Up until Tuesday, we were just a group hoping to acquire the space. Now we're a group that has acquired the space.'

'The space' - the ground floor of the condominium building at 1620 N.E. Broadway - has been the subject of a lot of ups and downs over the last couple of years.

When the condominium owner and developer - Aiyana Weidler LLC - began selling the condominiums a few years ago, there was an expectation that an upscale Zupan's grocery would be located on the ground floor. But Zupan's withdrew from its lease in late 2004; the grocer and Aiyana Weidler had a dispute about the heating and cooling system necessary for the proposed space.

Aiyana Weidler later was close to finalizing a lease deal with PetSmart, a pet supply store, to locate in most of the first floor space. But PetSmart withdrew from negotiations, in part because of neighborhood opposition to its locating there.

That's when neighborhood residents, led by some of the condominium owners, started talking about buying the roughly 15,000 square feet of ground floor space from Aiyana Weidler for a grocery store and in-store restaurant.

The idea was that the space would be owned by an entity that in turn would be owned by community members who bought $1,000 shares.

The group was not able to negotiate the purchase of the space, but hopes now to lease the space for up to 20 years, Zadeyan said. The tentative lease, he said, is for 10 years with options to twice extend it by five years.

'I think the (community) reaction has been tremendous - all the way through - considering what an unusual model we are,' Zadeyan said. 'We think people are investing because they want to invest in their community and believe there is a need for a market of this type in their community.'

But that all still depends on the group getting its $600,000 worth of shares sold by Nov. 15, Zadeyan said.

Information on the market is at http://www.bmarket.biz.