With the District adding thousands of new residents every year, grocery stores are prowling the city for opportunities, and Whole Foods isn’t above the fray.
Not two weeks after reaching a deal to open a store in a $443 million development on New Jersey Avenue SE near Nationals Park, the grocer’s regional president said the chain has signed a lease to open another on H Street NE between 6th and 7th streets.
The stores will be the high-end grocer’s fifth and sixth in the District. On H Street, the company plans a 39,000-square-foot store beneath an apartment complex targeted for a neighborhood that presently includes a Murry’s grocery store.
Scott Allshouse, Whole Foods Market’s Mid-Atlantic regional president, said H Street was enjoying a boom and represented a lot of the demographics that the company values. The project is being developed by McLean-based Insight Property Group, which plopped down $10 million for the Murry’s store two years ago.
“That neighborhood reflects a lot of what Whole Foods is about — diversity, passion for food, history. Things like that. That’s what we are too. We are so in tune with that. That sense of community and pride,” Allshouse said.
Allshouse said the company was willing to open stores on both H Street NE and New Jersey Avenue SE, sites that are about two miles apart, because he felt that each neighborhood could support its own store. The H Street store should open in the fall of 2016 and the Southeast store in the spring of 2017.
“We obviously consider those things, but again they are uniquely different areas. You just don’t have the same feel on New Jersey Avenue that you have on H Street. . . . They are both really distinct,” he said.
Whole Foods is far from done expanding locally. “We are just beginning, in my opinion,” Allshouse said.
The company is planning its first store in Prince George’s County, in Riverdale Park, and another in the former Rouse Co. headquarters in Columbia. Its next destination may be the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center, for which D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) has just selected a development team led by Houston-based Hines Interests.
Allshouse, who lives in a Whole Foods-anchored property in Friendship Heights, said the company had been talking about the Walter Reed site since early in the planning process. He said Whole Foods has been in touch with officials from Weingarten Realty, the retail developer based in Houston that is among the companies working with Hines.
“Whole Foods is really interested,” Allshouse said. “We’ve been in communications with Hines and their retail development partner, Weingarten, and we’ve been in touch with them since early in that project.”
Wegmans, the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocery chain, has long pronounced its affinity for the Walter Reed site, where there is a large underground parking garage that the company says would nicely accommodate its first D.C. store.
Nothing prevents Wegmans from continuing to pursue a store at Walter Reed, but it declared in a letter to residents that its interest was as an “exclusive” partner of Roadside Development, one of the firms Hines beat out for the 67-acre Walter Reed project.
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