Whole Foods, adjoining businesses, months away from opening

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 240 views 

A new Fayetteville development, anchored by a 40,000 square foot Whole Foods Market, is on target to open on North College Avenue in September and October, if not sooner.

The development at 3525 N. College Ave. is nearly fully leased with businesses, including Chipotle’s, Zoe’s Kitchen, Jimmy John’s and Alumni Hall, according to Alan Cole with Collier’s International. Colliers represents Whole Foods and the developers S.J. Collins.

“We are almost completely leased and the final space is being negotiated now,” Cole said Tuesday. “These are national, regional and local names that are familiar to shoppers.”

The center, called Whole Foods Marketplace, will feature 10 retail businesses in addition to the grocery store. Construction is expected to be completed and turned over to tenants in late June with the ancillary businesses opening in September. Whole Foods is expected to open in October, Cole said.

Steve Clark, president of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, said some of those businesses could open before the start of classes in August at the University of Arkansas.

“Whole Foods is clearly a catalyst” in retail development and growth, Clark said, much like Nordstrom’s in the retail clothing arena. “Where (Whole Foods or Nordstrom’s) go, others follow. Retailers like Chipotle’s or Zoe’s Kitchen have a larger retailer they follow and they want to be part of this development.”

One projection is an increase in the traffic count passing the center when it opens. Clark said 2,000 more vehicles a day will pass by or pull into the parking lot. When Whole Food opens, that number is expected to climb to 5,000 vehicles.

“That’s huge,” he said, noting that many of those vehicles will come from Springdale, Rogers, or Bentonville and points in between to shop at the market.

Whole Foods has made a $25 million investment in the Fayetteville project and will hire about 140 employees, with an annual payroll of nearly $6 million, Clark said.

Another notable figure is the projected increase in sales taxes the city will collect. A January 2014 report by the Whole Foods company indicated their stores on average generate $983 in sales per square foot. The Fayetteville store will have 40,000 square feet.

The store’s original design was for 35,000 square feet but another 5,000 square feet was added to the store after construction began, pushing the size to 40,000 square feet Cole said.

A defunct car dealership was on the site of the new marketplace, valued at $1.9 million and paying about $20,000 in annual property taxes. Whole Foods likely will pay about 12 times that amount because of the size of investment it is making, Clark said. That adds local revenue to schools, city and county government operations.

Whole Foods also has a policy of donating 5% of a day’s sales to a local charity once a quarter, or four times a year. Clark said he met with a company representative just last week to discuss that aspect of the company’s presence.

Local farmers and growers should also benefit because Whole Foods is a decentralized business, meaning it buys many of its products locally because it doesn’t have its own supply chain, Clark said.

City Planner Andrew Garner said development and redevelopment on College Avenue has been occurring in bits and pieces for the last several years such as the conversion of the former Razorback Theater to World Gym and a former grocery store south of North Street turned into a roller skating rink.

More recently, the four corners at the intersection of College and Township Avenue “have totally turned over” in the last couple years with old buildings replaced by Arvest Bank, CVS Pharmacy and Kum & Go joining a Walgreen’s on that corner which opened several years ago.

Cole said there has been a lot of interest from retailers interested in a presence on North College. To accommodate that interest, there must be a marriage between property owners willing to redevelop their properties. One example of that is the construction of a Raisin’ Cain’s restaurant on College on the southwest corner at Millsap Road, which chose to be next door to Whole Foods. A former law office was razed on that corner to make way for the restaurant.