For an area that has been considered something of a wasteland for grocery shoppers, construction is finally in full gear for at least one of the promised additions to the area.
For years, Kroger and Fiesta, along with smaller versions of Foodarama on Ella and a boutique H-E-B concept on 18th Street have been the only places for folks in the Heights, Oak Forest and Garden Oaks to realistically shop.
But with dirt being moved at the intersection of Yale and 610 to make way for Amazon-owned Whole Foods, this seems like a good time for an update on all the grocery suitors that will open in the area.
Whole Foods 365, Yale Marketplace
Austin-based Whole Foods announced plans to move into the Leader area with a new concept more than two years ago, but little had been divulged regarding specs of the new store until earlier this year. Vertical construction was set to take off at the site at the northeast corner of Yale Street and the North Loop 610 frontage road on the project known as the Yale Marketplace by developer Fidelis Realty Partners after bids were received and finalized in early May.
Workers hauling steel beams and cranes dragging dirt Tuesday morning signaled construction has begun, with Whole Foods 365 serving as the anchor store. However, an exact timeline for completion is unavailable as of press time.
The Austin-based grocer announced the new concept in May 2015, and wasted no time searching Houston for a good location, saying it is designed to meet the public’s growing demand for natural foods through the use of a curated selection of products in a store occupying a much smaller footprint than its flagship brand. Despite the considerably smaller footprint, however, representatives believe Garden Oaks 365 will have just as much staying power as its older brother.
“365 is designed to complement the Whole Foods Market brand by bringing the highest quality, healthy foods to a broader audience,” said Jeanette Webster, Houston media and community relations manager for Whole Foods, in August 2015. “365 will allow us to serve more customers with a fresh, value-driven shopping experience. The new stores will feature a mix of products that meet our quality standards, in an environment that’s fun and convenient for shoppers.”
H-E-B’s Heights saga is one residents have been dealing with for more than a year now, with the store’s support of repealing a portion of the dry laws bringing mixed reactions. In October of 2016, when the site was first unveiled to the public, Houston Division President Scott McClelland told The Leader that they hoped it would be up and running by January of 2018. In December, however, McClelland informed citizens that inclement weather and outside forces conspired to force the San Antonio-based grocer to delay work by several months, resulting in an estimated March 2018 opening.
Then, last December, the grocery giant revealed plans to propose a variance request which would build the store out an additional 15 feet to add a parking garage. Unfortunately, after having the variance to change the orientation of the store approved, H-E-B was forced to re-permit the store with the city.
“That pushed the entire project back by several months,” H-E-B Houston President Scott McClelland said.
According to McClelland in a June interview with The Leader, however, the store was then set to break ground August 21, with site work to begin September 25 leading to an August 2018 opening.
“Nobody is more interested than me (in getting this thing started),” McClelland said in June. “The Heights is my dream store to get built. Good things come to those who wait, I promise.”
However, any passerby can see that no work has begun at 23rd and Shepherd — bringing in some questions as to whether any work will be done soon on what has been promised as a new modern, urban-style store that will reflect the Heights community.
The Leader was unable to reach McClelland as of press time.
The German supermarket chain was announced as a new tenant in the Garden Oaks shopping center just about five month ago, replacing the Yoga Collective at the north end of the premises. They will build their own structure which will sit on Yoga Collective’s vacated space and on the vacant space next to that.
Per a company spokesperson, it remains too early in the building/planning process for any definitive timeline to be released for the store’s completion and grand opening.
No matter where they go, local residents are sure to have their pick of modern markets in the coming years.