Grocery giant Publix and grocers serving niche markets surround the area where the first-ever Whole Foods will be built in St. Pete – adding to the existing competitive landscape.
“Retailers look to their peers to see if they could be successful in the same market,” Jay Miller, CEO of J Square Developers, said regarding the success of the area and feasibility for other competitors.
St. Petersburg-based J Square Developers and its development partner Atlanta-based SJC Ventures officially announced this week they have started the construction process for the new freestanding organic grocery store at 201 38th Ave. North. in the Sunshine Plaza strip mall.
Whole Foods and Miller started communicating several years ago about locating at the site of the St. Pete plaza, which formerly housed Suncoast Fitness, Dollar General, Sun Country Cleaners and a Kahwa Coffee drive-thru. The demolition of the plaza started in early December, with the Kahwa drive-thru being the last to go.
The Whole Foods Market will sit across from Publix Super Market at Northeast Park Shopping Center, which is near the Publix Super Market at 4th Street Station – and a mere few blocks south, there is a Fresh Market.
Nearby is a Trader Joe’s, which Miller developed and opened in 2015 – becoming the first and only Trader Joe’s in the city.
“I hear from people who are moving to St. Pete that they look for places they are used to shopping,” Miller said. “When we brought Trader Joe’s to 4th Street, so many people expressed their gratitude.
“I think as the region looks to attract innovative companies, those [relocating] employees are moving from bigger metros and are used to having stores like Whole Foods – and can see St. Pete has all the amenities.”
Getting to cross the finish line of securing the permits and moving ahead with construction has not been smooth sailing.
“This should be a fairly simple build for a freestanding grocery store, but we have to relocate the sewer line and utility system. There are a lot of concerns about it and the engineer had to get approval. The site is also in a flood zone so we are elevating the store and we’ve been working with our neighbors about their concerns. We are grateful the city wanted to move this project forward,” Miller said.
The 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market is expected to open in 2023.
There will be three main access points for commuters: One will be located along 38th Avenue N. to the east of where there’s a gas station. The other alternative is at the traffic light on 3rd Street, leading to two plaza entrances.
There will be a total of 203 parking spaces, which is 40 more spaces than what the original plaza provided. Miller said there will be a separate, dedicated lot for employees.
Just west of the planned Whole Foods, Miller and his team will build a drive-thru Starbucks on 4th Street North. They expect to break ground on the freestanding coffee retailer in May.
J Square is also one of the developers behind the Orange Station at the Edge mixed-use development at the site of the old St. Pete Police headquarters, at 1301 Central Ave.
The demolition of the police HQ commenced late last year. Miller said he expects construction to start this summer.