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Medford food co-op eyes former Kim's building

The owners of Medford's iconic Kim's Restaurant, shuttered more than three years ago after 55 years in business, have offered the vacant space to the Medford Market Co-op for $100 a month and building upgrades.

The offer by Kim's co-owner Betty Fong and her partners is the latest development in the food cooperative's nearly yearlong search for a location since a plan fell through in 2007 to lease the historic Hubbard's Ace Hardware building in downtown Medford because of insufficient funding.

"The building is free and clear; there is no mortgage or debt," said commercial real estate broker Sam Fung, who helped Fong craft the offer. "It's been sitting empty for almost four years, and they have to pay property taxes on it. We decided we are going to take a gamble with the co-op."

How realistic the prospect will be for the co-op rests largely on how much it would cost to upgrade the space to meet current building codes and modify it for use as a grocery store.

"I'm excited about the opportunities that are coming forward," said co-op board President John Statler.

"We definitely need to have an offer that is generous so we have the time to arrange additional financing necessary, and that eases the financial burden, as this one does," he said. "We still have to take into consideration that the site will require some significant remodeling."

The co-op board has not yet met to discuss the offer but is expected to do so in the next two weeks. A time and date for the meeting has not been set.

The 24,000-square-foot Kim's Restaurant site at 2321 S. Pacific Highway in Medford is larger than what the co-op needs, but the co-op could occupy about 18,000 square feet of the building, Fung said.

Once the co-op grossed more than $150,000 per month in sales, it would have to pay rent of 5 percent of its sales up to $22,000 per month during the first 12 months of the lease.

The building has been on the market since the restaurant closed in 2005.

Statler said the co-op would likely need building officials to help identify what would require upgrades and associated cost estimates.

Kim's is not the organization's only prospect.

The former Foodland store on Stewart Avenue in south Medford is another possibility. Several co-op members have toured the store.

Unified Grocers, which operated the Foodland store, has a lease on the space through 2012 and would like to sublease it at 58 cents per square foot.

Unified Grocers, however, is willing to negotiate the price for the co-op, said Tom Bradley, commercial Realtor.

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

"We have lost a lot of interest in this in the last year and a half," said co-op board member Steven Kraft, "and we really need to get the message out that the co-op is a possibility again."

For details, visit www.medfordmarket.org.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.