CHICAGO (CBS) – It’s official – Whole Foods will be coming to the Hyde Park neighborhood, but not at the old Harper Court complex as rumored previously.
The 30,000 square-foot Whole Foods will be located on the ground floor of a 150-unit condo tower at Hyde Park Boulevard (51st Street) and Lake Park Avenue. It will open in the summer of 2014 and will employ 125 full- and part-time workers.
The new Whole Foods at 5105 S. Harper Ave. will have up to 188 free underground parking spaces and will include décor reflecting the Hyde Park neighborhood, large fresh-food and bulk-good sections, a sit-down bar and pouring station serving beer and wine, and a cooking classroom with tips on eating fresh and healthy foods, said Michael Bashaw, president of Whole Foods’ Midwest region.
The store will replace a strip mall anchored by the Village Foods grocery store and the Original Pancake House, which sits directly across Hyde Park Boulevard from Kenwood Academy high school.
Two blocks to the south, a major redevelopment project is underway at the Harper Court shopping center, where plans are now confirmed for a new Hyatt Hotel, as well as a University of Chicago office building and new retail space.
A Whole Foods store had been rumored to be part of the Harper Court shopping center redevelopment, but the condo tower site offered better store layout and parking options, Bashaw said.
Hyde Park shoppers will be among the first to see Whole Foods Market’s latest progressive initiative — ensuring that animals are treated humanely before they wind up as packaged eats.
“Farmers must meet 131 criteria to meet our minimum animal-welfare standards, including that animals cannot be kept in crates, stalls or cages,” Bashaw said. “We intend to lead the way on animal welfare just as we did with organic foods from our inception.”
The Hyde Park store won’t open until 2014 because of the extensive development required.
Whole Foods has come under fire for opening stores in primarily white, affluent neighborhoods.
Its six existing stores are at 30 W. Huron St. on the Near North Side, at 1550 N. Kingsbury St. in the Clybourn Corridor, at 6020 N. Cicero Ave. in the Sauganash neighborhood, at 1101 S. Canal St. in the South Loop, at 3300 N. Ashland Ave. in the Lakeview neighborhood, and at 3640 N. Halsted St. in Boystown, adjacent to the Center on Halsted GLBT community facility.
Whole Foods also operates 11 stores in the suburbs.
Bashaw said the Austin, Texas-based company’s real-estate development often takes years and requires a complex set of circumstances be met, including available and appropriate property and a highly educated population that is amenable to the store’s size and location.
He said the Hyde Park store is the right size for the neighborhood. Whole Foods Market stores average 36,000 square feet.
Whole Foods has been in the Chicago market since 1993, when it opened its first local store at 1000 W. North Ave. It vacated that store for the Kingsbury Street location in 2009.
The grocer is seeing an uptick in its sales as the economy starts to improve, and plans to open 10 to 12 new stores in Illinois in the next five to seven years.
The Original Pancake House is expected to become a part of the new development on the site, the property owner said. The pancake restaurant now occupies about 3,000 square feet and attracts long lines of customers on Sunday mornings.
The development will include 10,000 square feet of space for small, locally owned retail.
The condo tower will sit next to a mid-rise building with 29 residential units. No decision has been made on whether the 179 total units will be rental or owned units.
Award-winning architect Jeanne Gang is designing the complex to include a “green” roof and sustainable construction materials.
The property’s adjacency to public transit and Hyde Park’s other retail arteries will give residents greater access to shopping, said Eli Ungar, a partner at property owner Antheus Capital.
“We think everyone will benefit,” he said.
The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire