Whole Foods to build second market in East Liberty, this time at Penn Plaza site
July 27, 2016 11:50 PM
The Whole Foods market on Centre Avenue in East Liberty.
Whole Foods announced Wednesday that it has signed a lease to build a second East Liberty store at Penn Plaza, where more than 100 residents have been relocated.
The Whole Foods store on Center Avenue in East Liberty. Whole Foods announced Wednesday that it has signed a lease to build a second East Liberty store at Penn Plaza.
By Mark Belko / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Five months after Penn Plaza residents in East Liberty had to be out of their apartments, a new Whole Foods Market is moving in.
The Austin, Texas-based grocery chain announced Wednesday that it has signed a lease to build a second East Liberty store at the site, where more than 100 residents, many of them older and with low incomes, have been relocated to make way for a new mixed-use development.
Whole Foods will anchor East Liberty Marketplace, the name of the complex to be built at Penn and South Euclid avenues. The store, at 50,000 square feet, will be nearly twice the size as the current cramped and crowded East Liberty Whole Foods on Centre Avenue.
Annie Cull, a Whole Foods spokeswoman, said no decision has been made regarding the future of the existing store, though it is unlikely that the grocer would keep two within blocks of each other. Options could include repurposing it or selling it off.
“We haven’t made any decisions. We just announced a new store and we’re very excited about it,” Ms. Cull said.
Steve Mosites, president of the Mosites Co., the developer of the Eastside complex where the existing Whole Foods is located, could not be reached for comment.
Construction of the new store is expected to start in the first quarter of 2017. No opening date has been set.
“We love the East Liberty community and are as committed to this neighborhood today as we were in 2002 when we first opened in the area,” said Scott Allshouse, Whole Foods Market mid-Atlantic regional president. “This larger building will broaden our footprint, offer more parking and allow us to create new opportunities to surprise and delight our expanding base of shoppers in Pittsburgh.”
Landing the trendy grocery chain is a coup for developer LG Realty Advisors headed by Larry Gumberg. The store will be built as part of a first phase that also will include a parking garage, offices, and about 200 market-rate apartments.
“We’re very pleased to have such a first-class tenant as the anchor of this mixed-use development. We plan to have approximately 200 apartments and office space all integrated into a true mixed use masterpiece,” said Jonathan Kamin, attorney for LG Realty.
“This is the first of many deliveries on our promises to bring significant development dollars to East Liberty, which will help fund affordable housing and the various other initiatives that we agreed to as part of the memorandum of understanding signed in September of last year.”
Pennley Park South, a LG Realty affiliate, agreed last year to commit 50 percent of the tax increments from the redevelopment to a fund set aside for affordable housing. Mr. Kamin called the Whole Foods construction a “significant down payment in making that fund a reality.”
The agreement was reached after Pennley Park began sending notices to tenants advising them to move within 90 days. That set off a panic, prompting intervention by Mayor Bill Peduto and the community organizing nonprofit Action United.
They were able to negotiate later move-out dates and moving allowances. Demolition of the first apartment building has started, with more than half of it down.
About 58 tenants remain in a second apartment building at the site. They have until March 31, 2017, to find new homes.
Robert Jamison, a Penn Plaza resident who helped negotiate the relocation agreement and who lives in the remaining apartment building, had mixed emotions about Whole Foods moving in.
“It’s the gentrification of East Liberty. They’re forcing lower-income people out and they’re making it impossible to be able to rent around here if you don’t make any money. I’m not opposed to Whole Foods individually. As a matter of fact, I shop at Whole Foods,” he said.
In addition to the East Liberty location, Whole Foods has a store in Wexford, with another to open in the South Hills early next year.
Mark Belko: email@example.com or 412-263-1262.
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