story by Ryan Saylor
A project that was all but confirmed thanks to artist's renderings submitted to the city of Fayetteville as part of a planned retail development has now been officially confirmed.
In an earnings report released Tuesday (May 6), Whole Foods Market confirmed that it would be opening its second Arkansas location in Fayetteville.
Plans for a Fayetteville Whole Foods first came to light in April, when Fairburn, Ga.-based developer S.J. Collins Enterprises submitted plans to the city showing a redeveloped property near the intersection of U.S. 71 and Millsap Road. Conceptual drawings submitted to the city clearly showed a more than 35,000-square-foot building with a Whole Foods Market sign above the front entrance.
Attempts at the time to confirm the location at 3535 N. College Ave. with Whole Foods was unsuccessful, but the earnings report said Fayetteville, along with eight other locations stretching from Hawaii to New York, would be joining the company's roster of 379 stores.
The expansion, the company said, was part of a plan to increase the store count by hundreds to meet customer demand.
"The company currently has 379 stores totaling approximately 14.4 million square feet and expects to cross the 500-store mark in 2017," the report stated. "Longer term, the Company sees demand for 1,200 Whole Foods Stores in the United States."
As part of the planned 500 stores by 2017, Whole Foods said it had "increased its development pipeline to a record 114 stores" following the signing of the leases for the nine planned locations. The earnings report also mentioned one relocation, which is commonly believed to be the Little Rock location which is presently located along Rodney Parham and Interstate 430. A list of stores in development on the Whole Foods Market website lists Little Rock as a location.
With the company confirming the new Fayetteville location, the project can now move through the formal steps necessary to receive approval for building permits without the veil of unconfirmed rumors about what was already certain about the new location.
A source familiar with the process said the first step was having the developer appear before the city's plat review committee on April 16, where committee members could make comments which would cause the developers to revise plans based on the feedback from the committee.
A planning commission subcommittee meeting was held May 1, with developers again meeting with commissioners to discuss plans and possibly receive direction on revisions that would be needed before the project could receive final approval, which would be on May 12 at the earliest.
In addition to the confirmation from Whole Foods on the Fayetteville location, Tuesday also saw the Fayetteville city council approve spending $150,000 on a new traffic signal for the shopping center.