The Medford Food Co-op has narrowed down the possibilities for its home to three locations and plans to seek feedback on the options at an upcoming public meeting.

The Medford Food Co-op has narrowed down the possibilities for its home to three locations and plans to seek feedback on the options at an upcoming public meeting.

The options will be presented from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. July 15 at the Red Rock Italian Eatery, 17 W. Fourth St., Medford.

The finalists are the former Foodland at Stewart Avenue in south Medford, the former Spearco building at Fourth and Fir streets in central Medford, and the former Toys for the Home store in the Bear Creek Plaza at Biddle Road in east Medford.

"We want to know which site the membership prefers because we promised we would bring it to them before we made a decision," said Jim Sims, Medford co-op president.

The co-op has launched a no-risk membership drive. The contributions of new members will be put in a trust fund that won't be tapped until the co-op has reached its fundraising goal and is prepared to open.

Medford-based People's Bank of Commerce has expressed interest in financing the co-op, provided that it demonstrates sufficient owner equity. The co-op also is in discussions with another local bank to try to secure financing.

The co-op needs to raise about $500,000 in order to open by its target date of Jan. 1, Sims said.

"If we achieve our goal, banks will be there with a line of credit," Sims said. "That was the major piece missing before."

Reaching that goal likely will involve a combination of member contributions and business sponsorships.

Business sponsors could obtain product placement in the future store and links to the co-op's Web site as well as other free advertising avenues.

Members do not have to be Medford residents.

Where the co-op will open depends on member feedback and the offers from the owners of the candidate properties, Sims said. Lease amounts and building upgrades haven't been determined yet, as negotiations are ongoing.

"We will pick the one that gives us the best opportunity for success," Sims said.

Sims said he plans to poll members July 15 on their preferences after outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each location.

The Bear Creek Plaza space doesn't project the image of a co-op, but it offers a lot of foot traffic and has plenty of parking, Sims said.

Spearco on the edge of downtown is not a shopping district. However, the co-op could eventually have the option to buy the property, and there could be some funding available through the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, said John Miele, co-op vice president.

Foodland could have financial advantages because it is already outfitted with shelves, freezers and other equipment the co-op would otherwise have to buy. In addition, Unified Grocers, which operated the old Foodland grocery store, has a lease on the building through 2012. As a result, subletting the space could bring free rent to help the co-op get established. Its main drawback is competing grocery stores in the area.

All three property owners have agreed to some kind of building upgrades, some that equal up to $250,000, Sims said. For instance, the owner of the Spearco building, Jack Cooney, has indicated he would pave the building's parking lot for the co-op, Sims said.

"The present state of the economy is working in our favor," Sims said. "There are a number of commercial property owners looking for tenants."

The co-op effort began about three years ago with a vision to provide a community hub in Medford offering local and organic produce and products, modeled after the Ashland Co-op.

In the past two years, co-op members have considered about 20 possible locations, narrowing them down to the final three on Monday.

Locations were scored on the following criteria: no more than 1 mile from the center of town, at least 50 parking spaces, 7,000 square feet of retail space and cost.

Medford is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest without a food co-op, Sims said.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or