Commercial Real Estate, Capital, Insurance, Leasing & Management

Whole Foods Eyes Midtown for huge store

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"I don't know if there is another place in Atlanta better-suited to accommodate this type of concept from Whole Foods," said Monetha Cobb, a managing director with real estate services firm Franklin Street.

Atlanta’s largest Whole Foods Market could come to the site of a planned residential tower in Midtown Atlanta.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. (NASDAQ: WFM) is in talks with Miami’s The Related Group for a roughly 60,000-square-foot store.

The store could anchor the second phase of Related’s planned two-tower project at 14th and West Peachtree streets.

The developer on Feb. 27 closed on the 2.2-acre site and looks to break ground on the first phase (a residential high-rise with roughly 390 units and 11,000 square feet of retail) in the third quarter.

Ed Allen, who heads Related’s Atlanta projects, confirmed the company was scouting a national retail tenant for its second phase.

“We would love to have Whole Foods, but we also have other options,” said Allen, a former vice president of development with Atlanta-based Post Properties who joined Related in 2013.

If the deal comes together, Whole Foods would open the store no later than 2018. Sources indicate that the new store would be an urban format with multiple levels.

Some retail experts see Whole Foods as a strong fit for the heart of Midtown because of the area’s growing residential density, its emphasis on pedestrian connectivity, and its established daytime work population — the core of the city’s professional and business services sector.

“I don’t know if there is another place in Atlanta better-suited to accommodate this type of concept from Whole Foods,” said Monetha Cobb, a managing director with real estate services firm Franklin Street.

It would be Whole Foods’ second store in Midtown. The other is located in the Midtown Place shopping center on Ponce de Leon Avenue, across from Ponce City Market.

The developer’s most difficult task will be integrating the project into an already busy section of Midtown, where traffic can bottleneck around 14th Street, Cobb said. Midtown, even with its access to the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail and Piedmont Park, still battles traffic congestion.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but at least Midtown has more pedestrian traffic than other parts of the city,” she added.

There’s a growing list of high-profile developments in the immediate area.

MARTA recently launched the process to develop land around Arts Center, a 6.2-acre station that sits along West Peachtree and 15th streets behind the Woodruff Arts Center. The vision is to add a residential tower, street-level retail and possibly a hotel to land around the MARTA station.

Several residential towers are in the works, including a new high-rise at 14th and West Peachtree streets from Atlanta developer Novare Group.

AMLI Residential also looks to build a 26-story apartment tower at 15th and West Peachtree streets.

North Point Hospitality Group Inc. recently proposed a 152-room Hampton Inn & Suites at West Peachtree and 15th streets.

Northside Hospital sees West Peachtree as the site of a new medical office tower with good visibility over the Downtown Connector.

“It’s easy to look at Whole Foods as potentially serving the nearby residential towers, such as the ones for Novare and Related,” said Charles Sharbaugh, a longtime Atlanta real estate attorney now with Carlton Fields Jorden Burt. “But, this project is also going to be the key geographic center of service for other parts of Midtown near Piedmont Park, Tech Square and all the apartments across the connector on the Westside — and there are a lot of them.”

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