The Yellowknife Co-op in February 2023. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Yellowknife Co-op is assessing the feasibility of building a new, larger store in its existing parking lot on Old Airport Road.
Some parts of the existing store are up to 40 years old. The Co-op said it has decided a new building would be more cost-effective than another round of renovations.
Store managers said that under their most ambitious timeline, a new building could open as soon as September 2024 – but they are prepared for that date to be pushed back.
Geotechnical drilling work to confirm that the parking lot could be the new store’s location is expected to begin in the coming weeks.
If that site is chosen, construction could begin this year and the site layout would essentially flip: the new store would appear in the current parking lot, the old store would be demolished, and the parking lot would reappear in its place. The gas station would remain where it is.
“As we’ve grown over the years and continued to get bigger and have more membership, the space in this building is just too small,” said Co-op business development manager Jeff Kincaid.
“We were trying to see how we could modernize our offerings – bring up more deli options like you’d see in a big store down south – and it would have cost so much money, behind the scenes, to renovate different areas of this building.
“It was actually more affordable to build a larger building, as opposed to try a major renovation and still be left with a building that’s 10,000 sq ft too small.”
Deli would be expanded
Store general manager Justin Nelson said work to examine options for expansion began in 2016. Co-op members were briefed in 2018 that a new building might be a possibility.
“There’s not a great deal of land out there for us to put a new building on. We have a great location in Yellowknife and we want to keep this location, obviously,” Nelson told Cabin Radio.
“I feel pretty confident that you’ll see another Co-op built on this site … securing the Co-op’s footprint in Yellowknife for the next 30 or 40 years.”
Though work is still in a preliminary stage, a new Co-op building is expected to be split roughly half-and-half between a fresh section – bakery, produce, meat, and a greatly expanded deli – and the remaining dry grocery, frozen foods, dairy and pharmacy.
“It would just be a huge, huge improvement on what we have,” said Nelson. “It would be built like a store down south.”
Kincaid said drilling work and discussions with the City of Yellowknife – a city easement runs through the parking lot – will determine whether the new building can go ahead in the planned site. He acknowledged that the ongoing municipal strike and lockout could delay any required permits.
“This geotech and the next couple of months dealing with the city will confirm if it’s going to be on our site,” he said, “or if we have to look for another option.”