Whole Foods Market expects to open its new store near Denver Union Station this fall after the first wave of apartments open in the building where it will be housed.
The Austin, Texas-headquartered grocer will go head to head with nearby King Soopers and draw shoppers from downtown, Five Points, the Highlands and RiNo. Capitol Hill residents will have to decide whether to go two-ish miles to the new store or head in the other direction to the Whole Foods in Cherry Creek or Washington Park.
Late last month, Whole Foods confirmed it was closing its store at the southeast corner of East 11th Avenue and North Emerson Street just ahead of the new store’s opening. However, the company still is considering other options for the Cap Hill property.
“We are retaining that site,” said Heather Larrabee, Rocky Mountain region spokeswoman for Whole Foods. “The jury is still out on what that site will become, but we see it as a very valuable asset to our business, and that location is obviously very prime. It has been a community grocery store for 30 or 40 years so we respect the role that it played in the community, and we hope to be able to continue to offer services in some kind of other format.”
What that format will look like, Whole Foods hasn’t said.
The store in Cap Hill is roughly 20,500 square feet, per city records. Whole Foods is considering any of its locations smaller than 35,000 square feet for its new millennial-focused, less-pricey 365 concept, Larrabee said.
The Whole Foods at Union Station will be the flagship store in the Rocky Mountain region and the second-largest location in Colorado behind the one in Boulder. With roughly 150 free parking spaces below, the store will anchor the Union Denver luxury apartment complex at the north corner of 17th and Wewatta streets.
Whole Foods is focused on expanding its prepared food options, which include allowing “up-and-coming culinary talent in the community” to operate their own stand-alone shops within the four walls of stores. What that might look like in Denver hasn’t been announced, but a The Pressery juice bar recently opened in the new Whole Foods in Longmont and a taqueria is housed in an El Paso, Texas store, Larrabee said.
“I can’t talk about it yet,” she said. “But there will be expanded seating and culinary options for people. We figure in the heart of the city that’s going to really be something people are going to want, and that’s something we really want to provide.”
In additional to Whole Foods, Union Denver has an agreement to house a national pharmacy and is looking for a sit-down restaurant to lease the roughly 3,000 square feet still available, said Brian Blackburn, development manager at Holland Partner Group.
Union Denver will be pet-friendly and will include a fitness center, an outdoor sparkling pool and Grand Hall gather space for tenants. Units range from 430 square feet to 1,637 square feet and from $1,450 per month to $5,550, according to the complex’s website.
The complex has three towers, each with roughly 200 units, that sit on top of Whole Foods. The first tower that fronts Chestnut Place is expected to open in May followed by the Wewatta Street-facing tower in September and the 18th Street-facing tower in early 2018, Blackburn said. Leasing began last month.
“We’re going to have roughly 580 units, but a lot people are living a couple to an apartment. So in theory, we could have a thousand people living in this building,” he said. “I think that’s when you have that critical mass for community building and place making.”