A Whole Foods grocery store is “in development” in St. Petersburg, according to a company spokesperson.
Stop us if you’ve heard that one before.
Rumors that the upscale and organic chain was eyeing locations in St. Petersburg go back at least as far as 2008, with one downtown site attracting lots of attention in 2012.
Now, though, there actually appears to be some movement.
St. Petersburg developer Jay Miller has filed a proposal to build an upscale grocery store at the Sunshine Plaza strip mall in the 200 block of 38th Avenue N, currently home to a Dollar General, Suncoast Fitness gym and dry cleaning business.
Miller filed a site plan with the city in January, saying he was working with the property owner to redevelop the center into a 40,100-square-foot organic grocery store with 207 parking spaces, calling it “a vast improvement of the existing conditions and uses of the site.” His application said the store “will enhance and revitalize” nearby properties “and will provide a high-quality organic grocery shopping experience.”
“We cannot confirm the name of the tenant we’re working with at this point, because there are still contingencies,” said Miller, president of J Square Developers in St. Petersburg. “That’s as much as I can tell you right now.”
A Whole Foods spokeswoman said via email that a store was being developed for St. Petersburg, but declined to confirm a location or any other information.
Suncoast Fitness appeared to leak the Whole Foods news last week on Facebook, writing that owners would be “closing this facility in June or July due to the Landlord building a Whole Foods on the Property.”
“We had a meeting with the landlord, and he said he’s working on bringing a Whole Foods here, or another one that he can’t say,” said John Hunter, manager of the gym. “Our lease is up May 31, so May 31, it could possibly be our last day here.”
The site also encompasses the stand-alone Kahwa Coffee shop at 3901 Third St. N, and Kahwa owner Raphael Perrier said they’ll be moved out as well.
“We knew it was coming at one point or another,” Perrier said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going.”
Perrier said he couldn’t say if the new store would be a Whole Foods, which carries Kahwa Coffee locally. But if it is, he plans to try to get a shop inside as part of the store’s Friends of Whole Foods Market program, designed to give local brands a footprint inside stores.
If Whole Foods, or any 40,000-square-foot organic grocery, goes into the Sunshine Plaza site, it would sit almost directly across the street from the busy Publix in the Northeast Park shopping center — which itself sits almost directly across Fourth Street from another busy Publix.
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Owned by Amazon, Whole Foods is already planning an expansion in Tampa Bay, moving its store on Dale Mabry Highway just north of Interstate 275 into a much larger facility in the new Midtown Tampa development. Whole Foods also has stores in Clearwater, Carrollwood and Sarasota.
While the site plan itself has not yet come up for approval by the city, Miller has requested a right-of-way vacation for a stretch of 39th Avenue N in order to combine multiple parcels for the store site. City officials have tentatively approved the application, with a council vote planned for this spring.
Businesses displaced by the plans will either close or find a new home. Suncoast Fitness, which for years operated as a Gold’s Gym, is eyeing several locations within a radius of a mile or two in order to retain clients, Hunter said. But as high-priced tenants like Whole Foods move in, smaller businesses are getting priced out.
“I looked at locations on Fourth Street, and there’s no possible way,” he said. “It’s $35 to $40 a square foot, which is totally insane. I don’t even know how you can keep a business going. St. Pete, it’s become the place to live.”