Design Award Entries

Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op

The Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op eliminates a food desert in the heart of Fayetteville that was created by a closed-down grocery building. Expanded organic food offerings, community spaces, and an expansive patio overhauled the car-centric edge of College Avenue with bold steel forms and inviting landscapes. The community co-op enhances the experience of friends, families, and neighbors gathering for healthy food and tasty beverages on Fayetteville's new front porch.

Project Statement

The Ozark Natural Foods Co-Op is a reimagined location in a former IGA grocery store building on College Avenue in the heart of Fayetteville, Arkansas. This project exemplifies a sustainable and resilient approach to save an existing building and eliminate a food desert within the community with an option for local, healthy, organic foods and spaces to bring friends, families, and neighbors together along the busy car-centric corridor. To overhaul the mental image of the old building within the mind of the community, the design team first sought to remove the outdated vestibule and move the primary entry to the more visible prominent corner that defines the start of the new front porch. Existing masonry was reused and re-stained while new cladding, in the form of raw steel rainscreen panels, was installed to strike a bold, crip form that, like the organic products within, would naturally, organically modify with time and exposure to nature’s elements.

The renovation rethinks the modern community food co-op. The team at Ozark Natural Foods knew that shoppers were shifting away from the typical weekly grocery list shopping trip, and instead were moving more toward multiple short trips. Capitalizing on this, as well as the new, more centralized location, the new design was developed as a community hub model to be inviting to older long-term customers, as well as enticing to younger, college-aged shoppers at the nearby University of Arkansas. The building physically exemplifies the sign on the front door that reads “EVERYONE WELCOME.”

The new 32,400 square foot Co-Op location features a larger farm and garden section and focuses on an expanded food area with flexible indoor seating and strong forms clad in Arkansas-sourced Southern Yellow Pine. Interior spaces, such as bulk foods and health and wellness products, were scaled, shaped, and defined using a simple low-tech installation of hemp rope, and a new 117-foot long covered patio was added for outdoor seating, gatherings, events, and play. A new coffee and taproom featuring local flavors anchors the new Fayetteville front porch. Where once only parked automobiles were occasionally defining the edge, the largest porch in the region now invigorates the street while a robust landscape and series of protective raw steel planters simultaneously protect and define the lively outdoor space. Native vegetation serves as eye-level interest and as a sound buffer between cars and patio patrons.

The architect's own fabrication team built numerous custom elements of the building, including bike and scooter racks, a beer tap system, a live-edge wood slab bar top, sculptural door pulls, and an array of patio furniture components. Resolution at the detail of the hand and repositioning this building at the scale of the community created a complete transformation for the entire city and the individual customer experience.

AIA Arkansas