Grocery giant Publix and grocers serving niche markets surround the area where the first-ever Whole Foods will be built in downtown St. Pete, adding to the existing competitive landscape.
“Retailers are looking to their peers to see if they could be successful in the same market,” J Square Developers CEO Jay Miller said of the region’s success and feasibility for other competitors.
Petersburg-based J Square Developers and its development partner, Atlanta-based SJC Ventures, officially announced this week that they have begun the process of building the new self-contained organic grocery store at 201 38th Ave. North. in the Sunshine Plaza shopping center.
Whole Foods and Miller began communicating about the location several years ago at the St. Pete’s Place site, which once housed Suncoast Fitness, Dollar General, Sun Country Cleaners and a Kahwa Coffee drive-thru. Demolition of the plaza began in early December, with Kahwa’s drive-thru being the latest to go.
The Whole Foods Market will be located across from the Publix Super Market at Northeast Park Shopping Center, which is near the Publix Super Market at 4th Street Station — and a few blocks south is a Fresh Market.
Nearby is a Trader Joe’s, which Miller expanded and opened in 2015 – becoming the city’s first and only Trader Joe’s.
“I hear from people moving to St. Pete that they’re looking for places they’re used to shopping,” Miller said. “When we brought Trader Joe’s to 4th Street, so many people expressed their gratitude.
“I think the region is looking to attract innovative companies, those [relocating] employees leave the big metros and are used to having stores like Whole Foods – and can see that St. Pete has all the conveniences.
Getting to the finish line to get the permits and move the construction forward was not easy.
“It should be a simple enough build for a freestanding guy who still has to relocate the sewer line and utility system.
“There are a lot of concerns about this and the engineer had to get approval. The site is also in a flood zone so we are raising the store and have worked with our neighbors on their concerns. We are grateful to the city for wanting to move this project forward,” Miller said.
The 40,000 square foot Whole Foods Market is set to open in 2023.
There will be three main access points for commuters: one will be located along 38th Avenue North, east of where a gas station is located. The other alternative is at the traffic light on 3rd Street, leading to two entrances to the square.
There will be a total of 203 parking spaces, which is 40 more spaces than the original space 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 North 4th Street. They expect to break ground on the standalone coffee retailer in May.
J Square is also a developer of the Orange Station at the Edge mixed-use development on the site of the former St. Pete’s Police Headquarters at 1301 Central Ave.
Demolition of the police headquarters began late last year. Miller said he expects construction to begin this summer.