It was on, it was off, but it appears to be a certainty now: Whole Foods plans to open a store a few blocks from Nationals Park in Southeast D.C.
Developer William C. Smith and Co. says it has signed a lease for the store to open at 800 New Jersey Ave. SE, as part of an apartment project they plan to begin building next year.
Carol Chatham, a spokeswoman for the developer, declined to comment on the lease but confirmed a report from UrbanTurf, which quoted Brad Fennell, senior vice president of development for the firm, at a neighborhood meeting Monday night saying, “We do have a signed lease, and we are going to be moving forward.”
A Whole Foods spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
The deal has been a long time coming. Chris Smith, chief executive of William C. Smith, has been in discussions with Whole Foods for more than a decade and thought he had a deal in 2011 but the agreement fell apart in part because of a request for an $800,000 annual tax break. His company has been one of the biggest believers in the area, even moving its offices to 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE.
Chathan said the store would be 35,000 square feet and would not require any government assistance.
The building where Whole Foods would open is the second building of a complex that is eventually expected to include 1,200 residential units in four buildings built on the site of a former Washington Post plant three blocks from the Navy Yard Metro station. The site is on the northern edge of the ballpark redevelopment area, next to the Southeast Freeway, and is expected to lure shoppers from nearby Capitol Hill.
Whole Foods Market has been called the “Lewis and Clark of Gentrification” because of its capacity to increase property values around its stores, in part due to the effect its store on P Street Northwest (which opened as a Fresh Fields) has had on the Logan Circle neighborhood and its surroundings. It will be the chain’s fifth store in the District.
Whether the “Whole Foods effect” follows the grocer’s opening the neighborhood, branded Capitol Riverfront, it will not be the area’s only grocer. Another developer, Forest City Washington, is at work building a Harris Teeter as part of another apartment building at 1212 4th Street SE, that is also expected to be completed next year.
Washington Post staff writer Mike DeBonis contributed to this piece.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz