‘Whole’ lot of nothing as food megastore abandons Gowanus site
Whole Foods has shelved its plans to open its first Brooklyn branch on Third Avenue near the Gowanus Canal, The Brooklyn Paper has learned.
The grocery chain, known for its high-end food and prices to match, said on Wednesday that it does still hope to come to Brooklyn, but it won’t be at its polluted parcel at the corner of Third Street.
“Whole Foods does not have immediate plans to open in Brooklyn,” said company spokeswoman Mara Engel Weleck, who suggested that the land would be sold.
Whole Foods would have become part of a growing gourmet movement in Brooklyn, joining such big-time grocers as Fairway and Trader Joe’s to hawk expensive edibles to the borough’s well-heeled consumers.
But its proposed site between tony Park Slope and Carroll Gardens was contentious from the start, not only because of the toxicity of the canal-zone location, but also because of the inclusion of a 420-space parking lot, which some critics pointed out was bigger than many suburban stores.
“We welcome the idea of Whole Foods … but from the beginning, we felt their plan was highly inappropriate because it called for a huge parking lot,” Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors said after learning about the store’s demise.
Still, legions of fans will be disappointed by the prolonged wait for their favorite corporate heath food shop to finally open in Kings County.
There had been no progress at the site for years, due to the environmental hazards and tightened credit markets, but the Austin-based retailer always insisted through terse statements that it would someday be a beacon for the hungry masses with a yen for Tofutti and edamame.
Dangerously high levels of benzene found in 2006 in the soil, from a nearby Verizon property, created an obstacle for the Whole Foods.
Even though the work stalled, Whole Foods announced last fall it was looking to partner with developers to jumpstart the supermarket. And as recently as this February, Whole Foods remained committed to the site by submitting a state environmental application, a prerequisite for any construction.
The grocery chain’s decision to suspend work at the Third Avenue site was first reported by Brooklyn the Borough, a Web site.
By Mike McLaughlin
The Brooklyn Paper