For years, shoppers at East Liberty's Whole Foods Market have had to contend with narrow aisles and a store that was smaller than many others in the chain. But that may be changing soon.
The Mosites Co. is expected to brief the city planning commission this month on a proposal to expand the popular East End store by 15,200 square feet and add 52 parking spaces.
Steve Mosites, company president, said he hopes to begin the project -- expected to cost $4 million to $5 million -- in late March and have the building shell and a new parking deck finished by early September.
"We're working fast and furious on it," he said.
The expansion would add 8,300 square feet of space at ground level to the front of the store. A 6,900-square-foot second floor would be built on top of that. The goal, Mr. Mosites said, is to expand the store's sales area by roughly 60 percent.
In addition, Mosites is planning to build a new parking deck over the market's parking lot that would connect to an existing pedestrian bridge. There also would be an entrance to the second level of the store from the deck.
With the new deck, the number of spaces devoted to the store would increase from 104 to 156, providing relief for motorists who now battle for limited parking.
Whole Foods plans to use the new space to expand its produce and prepared foods sections, Mr. Mosites said.
The developer is ready to start construction, pending approval from the planning commission. It also is waiting to get approvals for variances related to setbacks and the height of the deck.
Mosites has a short window to do the project. Mr. Mosites said it needs to have the store shell and the deck completed by early September so that there will be no disruptions during the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.
If Mosites can't meet that timetable, the expansion might have to wait until 2015, he said.
The project could pose some challenges for shoppers. While the deck is being built, the developer may have to move parking off site. Mr. Mosites said he is talking to AAA about securing 25 parking spaces on weekdays and 50 on weekends in a lot on Centre Avenue across from Whole Foods. That, he said, probably would be "our best bet."
"I think it's going to be a challenge," he said of the parking. "The good thing is there will be progress. We'll get through it."
The expansion would move the East Liberty store closer to the size of its sister markets throughout the country. Mr. Mosites said the standard Whole Foods now runs about 40,000 square feet.
Since the East Liberty store opened in 2002, Whole Foods has added a location in the Wexford Plaza shopping center in McCandless and announced plans for another in the South Hills.
Mark Belko: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1262.