Whole Foods inks new deal for grocery store at Willits | PostIndependent.com

Whole Foods inks new deal for grocery store at Willits

Scott CondonAspen CorrespondentPost IndependentGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Whole Foods Market has signed a new agreement to open a grocery store at Willits Town Center in Basalt, a source close to the negotiations said Friday.Details about the store size, terms of the agreement and the projected opening are expected to be released next week, said the source, who requested anonymity. The agreement was reached after eight months of negotiations, and after an initial deal fell apart.Officials for Whole Foods and Joseph Freed & Associates (JFA), the owner and developer of Willits Town Center, declined on Friday to confirm or deny the signing of the lease. JFA spokeswoman Jayne Thompson said an announcement is expected early next week.Basalt Mayor Leroy Duroux said he was informed Friday that a lease had been signed.”As far as the town goes, it’s a great step forward for us,” Duroux said. A new market will create jobs and spur extra sales tax revenues for Basalt, he said.Duroux said word of the lease was obviously good news since the recession has hit the Roaring Fork Valley so hard. The agreement was also somewhat of a surprise.”I was very hopeful,” the mayor said. “I’ve kind of been in touch with their representatives but I didn’t get a sense of which way it was going.”Whole Foods signed its initial lease in May 2007 to open a 44,000-square-foot grocery store at Willits. The foundation for the building was poured and other infrastructure was completed but the project stalled on Labor Day Weekend 2008.JFA defaulted on the contract when it failed to turn over the shell of the market to Whole Foods on June 1, 2009. Whole Foods intended to complete the interior of the market itself and open the store in early 2010.Since then, both sides have repeatedly confirmed they remain in negotiations but said little else. Representatives of the developer and the grocery store operator said after the initial lease expired that the poor economy would require a smaller store at Willits.The average size of new stores opened by Whole Foods in its fiscal year 2009 was 53,500 square feet, according to its 2010 first quarter report. The average size of stores opening in 2010 is expected to shrink to 35,200 square feet, the report said.Sources familiar with the negotiations said Willits could be a boutique market with less than 30,000 square feet. The world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods is still expected to attract shoppers from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and even the Interstate 70 corridor.The Basalt store has remained on Whole Foods list of “stores in development” since last June even as the publicly-traded company has terminated several proposals elsewhere in the country. It scaled back its expansion plan because of the recession, its recession quarterly reports indicate.Whole Foods has 289 stores in North America and the United Kingdom.scondon@aspentimes.com

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