MEDFORD — Bear Creek Plaza shopping center has joined the short list of possible sites for the fledgling Medford Market, the city's first food co-op.

MEDFORD — Bear Creek Plaza shopping center has joined the short list of possible sites for the fledgling Medford Market, the city's first food co-op.

The 22,080-square-foot site on Biddle Road that formerly housed Toys for the Home emerged as a candidate last week, joining the former Kim's Restaurant location at 2351 S. Pacific Highway, and the old Foodland grocery store building at 757 Stewart Ave., as front-runners for the cooperative venture.

The group initially planned to locate in the old Hubbard's Hardware building on the corner of East Main Street and Riverside Avenue, but that effort fell through.

The Kim's building has 12,000 square feet, which is expandable to 18,000 square feet with the addition of second-floor offices. Foodland, with 29,526 square feet, would be divided, and the co-op would use half of the building.

A newly constituted board elected Monday night will consider the options. John Statler, co-op board president, said Monday the store doesn't need as much space as some people might think.

"We need 7,000 square feet for retail and additional 2,000 for office and storage," he said.

Co-op board member John Miele met with a contractor to look over the Bear Creek site Monday afternoon.

"We don't need a lot of space," Statler said. "It's an interesting predicament to be in with a lot of opportunities. There may still be other places that show up."

Commercial real estate broker Sam Fung, who also put together a proposal for the Kim's site, thinks the Biddle Road location is superior for several reasons. He cited the mix of stores at Bear Creek Plaza; the site's high visibility from both Biddle Road and the freeway; the street's high traffic count; and the lack on nearby competition.

"I tried to compare the three sites candidly, and I'm more convinced after putting everything side by side that Bear Creek Plaza looks like the best location," Fung said. "The shopping center design is the best and there's a lot of anchor use in the Bear Creek Plaza."

The shopping center's discount stores are a strong draw when the economy is bad, Fung said.

"A lot of people go to TJ Maxx looking for good deals," he said. "You've got Dollar Tree, Big Lots and Bi-Mart, where people on a budget are stretching their dollar. Competition is very important, too. The closest grocery store is Food 4 Less. In the original co-op model, they wanted to be close to downtown. Bear Creek Plaza is close enough to bike from downtown Medford."

Statler said there are other considerations that favor the Stewart Avenue location.

"The real advantage of Foodland is that it has been a grocery store," he said. "The plumbing is there and there is more than enough power, although the equipment may not be reusable."

United Grocers formerly operated the Foodland store and has a lease on the space through 2012.

Following Monday night's elections, Statler said, the board can begin evaluating costs for renovation and start-up.

"We'll dig more deeply into the costs of opening at particular locations, negotiating with the owners and lease-holders and have a major membership drive," he said.

When a location is chosen, Statler said, a project manager, store manager and contractor will be picked.

"We have over a thousand members now," he said. "It will be a good thing for the economy."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail