Whole Foods confirms plans for Fayetteville store

Proposed development location

Staff graphic/Google Maps

Whole Foods Market officials have confirmed the company’s plans to open a new grocery store in Fayetteville.

According to a press release issued Tuesday, Fayetteville is one of several new markets Whole Foods will soon enter as part of a massive expansion that includes adding over 100 new stores over the next three years.

The Austin, Texas-based organic and natural foods grocery chain currently operates 379 stores across the country, and has plans to cross the 500-store mark sometime in 2017. Whole Foods has only one other Arkansas store, at 10700 N. Rodney Parham Road in Little Rock.

The Fayetteville announcement should come as no surprise to those who’ve seen the preliminary plans submitted by Georgia-based developer S.J. Collins Enterprises. The company recently applied for a large-scale development permit that includes a 35,500-square-foot grocery store and three smaller retail shops at 3535 N. College Avenue.

The 6.6-acre site was once home to a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and has been used for several businesses over the last 10 years.

Original plans submitted didn’t include any specific tenants, but elevation drawings clearly showed a Whole Foods Market logo on the front facade of the main building.

Once the plans were unveiled, City Council members worked to approve a proposal to pay $150,000 for a traffic signal at College Avenue and Masonic Drive in an effort to help lure Whole Foods Market to Fayetteville.

The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department recommended the signal be added after traffic estimates showed that the new shopping center could generate 1,500 vehicles trips each day.

Paying for the new signal was proposed by Alderman Justin Tennant as both an investment in potential sales tax revenue, and as a show of support for the long-rumored Whole Foods store.

Tennant estimated the store could generate up to $1.3 million in sales tax revenue each year, based on Whole Foods’ average sales per square foot.

“I want Fayetteville to be known as a city that is willing to help business thrive,” Tennant wrote in a letter to Mayor Lioneld Jordan and city aldermen. “I want to be sure we are looking for the right businesses to partner with, and Whole Foods is unquestionably one of those.”

Planning Commissioners last month approved two driveways for the shopping center on College Avenue – one at the north end of the property where traffic will be restricted to right turns only, and another at Masonic Drive where the signal would be built.

S.J. Collins will be required to include two access easements to eventually allow vehicles to enter the shopping center from Longview Street and Plainview Avenue.

Planning Commissioners will consider approving the final development plans at their next meeting on May 12.