A long-anticipated larger Whole Foods is to open on the ground floor of a new residential tower on the Harbor East waterfront.
Harbor East Management Group on Thursday formally announced the Whole Foods lease for 711 S. Central Ave., plans first discussed publicly two years ago.
The store will occupy the street level of a new building, which will contain about 290 luxury apartments and almost 50 condos, on the former site of Baltimore Contractors, now a parking lot, where Harbor East meets Fells Point and Harbor Point. The Bozzuto Group is working with Harbor East Management on the more than $100 million project, presented to neighborhood groups this fall.
"Whole Foods Market is often at the core of the most exciting developments in the country, and it is no different here in Harbor East," Harbor East Management Group President Tim O'Donald said. "It is a testament to the community and to Baltimore as a whole that the company is committed to deepening its relationship with Harbor East and further investing in the city."
The new store will replace the existing Whole Foods store two blocks away on Fleet Street, which opened in 2002. The new location, between Aliceanna and Lancaster streets, is expected to be roughly 50,000 square feet, more than double the size of its current store, with cafe seating on a secondfloor and two outdoor patios.
It would be the latest new Whole Foods in the region as the retailer continues to expand. The popular grocery chain opened a store in Columbia last year and said it would have a store in the Towson Row project being developed by Caves Valley Partners.
Whole Foods has 408 locations worldwide, including nine in Maryland, and expects to have more than 500 stores within the next three years. The Texas-based retailer announced Wednesday that its first-quarter profit grew to $167 million, up about 5.7 percent year-over-year. Sales increased to $4.7 billion, 10 percent higher than in the same quarter last year.
"Over the years, Harbor East has grown into a vibrant and dynamic neighborhood," Scott Allshouse, Mid-Atlantic regional president at Whole Foods, said in a statement. "We see Baltimore as an incredible area of opportunity and are so pleased to grow along with development and the community as a whole."
Harbor East Management Group did not say what would take the place of Whole Foods at its current spot. The store is to remain open there until the new building is complete, which Bozzuto Development Co. vice president Jeffrey Kayce said could take about three years.
The building, designed by Hickok Cole, is expected to include about 575 parking spaces, according to minutes from the city's design panel. That number could change, Kayce said.
"There's no question that Harbor East is a wonderful success story of what can be and now what is Baltimore," he said.
The high-density neighborhood, which helped shift the city's downtown energy eastward, has seen a flurry of new development, moving it further from its industrial past.
Last year, Harbor East Management Group restarted work on luxury condominiums planned on top of the Four Seasons Hotel. A 208-room Hyatt Place developed by Bethesda-based Englewood LLC opened two blocks up Central Avenue on Fleet Street in December. The neighborhood also has seen turnover recently among several restaurants.
Central Avenue, expected to become a main connector to the area, is in the midst of a makeover. The city Department of Transportation is in the midst of a five-year project to improve the roadway, including storm drain upgrades and, eventually, new landscaping, bike lanes and sidewalks.
The $33 million project will include a four-lane bridge extending Central Avenue south to Harbor Point, where Beatty Development Group, which was involved in Harbor East before spinning off into a separate venture two years ago, is working on a 23-story regional headquarters for Exelon.
WorkShop Development in January put forward plans for residences on the site of the former Della Notte restaurant at President Street and Eastern Avenue.
H&S Bakery, owned by John Paterakis Sr., recently opened a new bread distribution facility in the Pulaski Industrial Area that replaces its old facility between Harbor East and Fells Point. The city's spending panel in April agreed to give H&S $200,000 to facilitate the move.
By moving the bakery's operations, Paterakis said in 2013, it clears the way for new buildings in the area, including possibly a department store.