Whole Foods relocation choices

Crain’s reports that Whole Foods is examining “two properties on the west side of Kingsbury Street just south of North Avenue” for “an 80,000-square-foot store, roughly the same size as its Austin, Texas, flagship.”

A look at the site shows two vacant parcels behind the “small shopping center”:http://smith-field.com/northkings.html housing Old Navy, the Art Store (or whatever it’s called these days), and Design Within Reach. However, that’s a good block behind North Avenue and squeezed between Kingsbury and the river (with new development required to grant an access easement), with no visibility whatsoever — not that a destination retailer like Whole Foods might care, given the success (after initial problems) of nearby Trader Joe’s or its well-hidden River North location.

Relocating Whole Foods from that early strip mall might provide an opportunity for that developer to redevelop, consolidating parking entrances and improving access while increasing GLA and building under the city’s newer, more pedestrian friendly design guidelines.

Another interesting possibility: the landlord at North & Kingsbury is Smithfield Properties, which also has a development interest (along with Gordon Segal and Mid-America Retail) in the block-plus Homemakers/Expo site — with a vague plan for a 28-story residential tower on the vacant south half of that site. We’ve seen how much Whole Foods likes retail spaces below residential towers, as evidenced by recent openings/plans in Alexandria, Brooklyn, Chicago, Evanston, Manhattan, “Milwaukee”:http://www.jsonline.com/bym/news/apr05/317234.asp, Miami, “Minneapolis”:http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2005/11/condomania_stri.asp, New Orleans, Oakland, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, even Sarasota — accounting for nearly a fourth of all new stores. (Interestingly, “Milliken,”:http://www.millikendevelopments.com/Overview.html the developer of the equally large Minneapolis location, also developed the Charter Award winning Safeway in Lower Queen Anne and later a Whole Foods MXD nearby.)

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