UPDATED: Whole Foods scouting Fayetteville locations

A car lot near the corner of College Avenue and Millsap Road could be the home of a new shopping center anchored by a Whole Foods store.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Update: Whole Foods officials confirmed their plans for a Fayetteville store on May 6.

A major national retailer is shopping around Fayetteville for what could be its first location in northwest Arkansas.

Whole Foods Market is looking for either a new development or a used site that can be redeveloped to host its second location in the state, and they’re heavily considering Fayetteville.

A handful of rumored locations have come and gone over the past year, including various vacated buildings in midtown and uptown.

The most recent evidence points to a possible large-scale development on North College Avenue.

Several tips from readers and other sources indicate developers are considering a shopping center anchored by a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods store at the site of a former car lot north of Lewis Ford across from Superior Nissan. The center could include connected retail spaces with room for additional smaller shops on the north and south ends of the property.

The car lot, located at 3535 N. College Ave., has seen several tenants since serving as a Mercedes-Benz dealership. It’s currently being used as a truck clearance lot for next-door neighbors the Lewis Automotive Group. County property records indicate Gerald Jones (formerly of Jones Olds-GMC-Buick) still owns the land, but Jones could not be reached for comment.

Word on the street is that the shopping center could also be extended north to Millsap Road. That property is currently home to the Wayne Young Law Firm. Young declined an interview request for this story.

Update: Young got in touch with us today and said our story is the first he’s heard of a Whole Foods being built on or near his law firm. We’ve also received new tips suggesting the grocery chain may be considering a location closer to Interstate 540 off Mount Comfort Road. Interesting stuff.

The long awaited chain would provide another specialty grocery option for area shoppers, meaning more competition for longtime Fayetteville organic co-op Ozark Natural Foods, and the recently opened Fresh Market store in Rogers.

Officials from Whole Foods did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Representatives with Georgia-based S.J. Collins Enterprises, developers of several recent Whole Foods stores in the South, also failed to respond to inquiries about a Fayetteville location.

Fayetteville planning officials said no plans for the development have been submitted for preliminary review, so any deal in the works is likely far from done.

The Austin, Texas-based chain, which specializes in fresh, healthy, natural and organic food, currently lists 71 stores in development in the U.S.

The rumored square footage for the Fayetteville store is in line with the retailer’s reported recent growth plans. Whole Foods has focused on stores of 30,000 to 35,000 square feet in the past few years, “but we’re now shifting back up to a range of 35,000 to 45,000 square feet,” David Lannon, executive vice president of operations, told Supermarket News last year.

Company executives last month told CNBC’s Jim Cramer they want to expand to 1,200 stores throughout the country, nearly three times the number they currently operate worldwide.

The organic grocer chain now operates only one location in Arkansas, on Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock.