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VOL. 129 | NO. 6 | Thursday, January 09, 2014

Germantown Planning Commission OKs Plan for Whole Foods

By Amos Maki

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(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Developers on Tuesday, Jan. 7, cleared a key regulatory hurdle for a planned Whole Foods Market store in Germantown.

Before a packed house, the Germantown Planning Commission voted to approve a revamped plan for a new Whole Foods store at the southeast corner of the intersection of Poplar Avenue and Pete Mitchell Road, on the eastern edge of Germantown’s Central Business District.

“Whole Foods has been wanting to come to Germantown for over three years,” said Cindy Reaves of SR Consulting LLC. “We feel like this is a quality development that needs to be located in Germantown and we hope we can keep it here.”

The Planning Commission agreed, voting 6-0 at the end of a roughly two-hour meeting to approve the proposed store. Germantown’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen will still have to approve the project and a proposed partial closure of Pete Mitchell Road.

Whole Foods and local development firm Cypress Realty Holdings Co., in conjunction with Ford Jarratt Realty & Development Co., in October submitted plans to the city of Germantown to develop a 41,000-square-foot, freestanding Whole Foods store.

The development team revised its site plan after neighbors voiced concerns about traffic to include the addition of a six-foot brick fence on the southern property line and a crash gate on Pete Mitchell Road to restrict through traffic.

Still, neighbors worried about the impact the store would have on the surrounding area, including Dogwood Road, a tree-lined, residential artery.

“Anyone who drives down that street says, ‘Oh, the canopy of trees,’” said Richard Glassman, who lives on Dogwood Road. “The increased traffic, which we already have, the increased accidents we already have, is changing the only street we have like this in Germantown.”

But commission members said Whole Foods had made accommodations to allay neighbors’ concerns and that the upscale grocer was one of the highest-quality businesses that could locate at the site.

“I’m not saying they’re the best date we can get, but there are ways people could come in and develop to (existing zoning standards) and there’s nothing we could do to stop it,” said commission chairman David Klevan

Whole Foods, founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, has been active in the Memphis area lately. In addition to the planned Germantown store, the specialty grocer is opening a $3.1 million expansion of its East Memphis location. Whole Foods relocated the existing 25,000-square-foot store at 5022 Poplar into the space next door formerly occupied by Office Depot.

Whole Foods scouted multiple locations in Germantown before determining the location at Poplar and Pete Mitchell was the only one that would work, Charlie Oates, principal of Oates Commercial Properties, told the commission.

Tuesday’s meeting could be a preview of things to come in Germantown, which is preparing for a small boom in development, particularly retail.

The Shops of Saddle Creek is in store for a multimillion-dollar makeover and expansion.

Texas-based Trademark Property Co. will expand the portion of the 148,000-square-foot lifestyle center on the southwest side of Poplar Avenue and West Street in Germantown.

Trademark will demolish 20,000 square feet of existing space before building 40,000 square feet of new development.

The project also includes remodeled building exteriors for Saddle Creek South and West. Trademark will also explore ways to update the façade of Saddle Creek North.

The activity around Saddle Creek fits into Germantown’s plans for mixed-use development and enhancing its western edge.

Germantown hired the Lawrence Group, a North Carolina-based town planning and architectural firm, to develop guidelines for the redevelopment of its western gateway.

The Lawrence Group plan focuses on a 58-acre tract bounded by Poplar Avenue on the north, Poplar Pike on the south, the city’s border on the west and the Nottaway subdivision on the east.

Developer Raymond Gill has plans to develop the 10-acre property housing the historic Nelson-Kirby House.

In 2011, Gill Poplar GP, led by managing partner Gill, acquired the property east of Kirby Parkway and bounded by Poplar on the north and Poplar Pike on the south, for $2.6 million. Gill has been considering a major mixed-use development featuring office and retail space.

Atlanta-based Concordia Properties LLC has for months been in negotiations with the Arthur family to acquire its land near Saddle Creek. Concordia is known for developing neighborhood retail and mixed-use projects.

The Arthur property, at the southwest corner of Poplar and West Street behind Saddle Creek South, has been scouted for development for years. Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers, the original developer of Saddle Creek, at one point wanted to develop 37 acres of the Arthur estate south of Poplar, but that deal fell apart.

Germantown has been planning its future for years.

In 2005, Germantown adopted its “Vision 2020” plan, the smart growth redevelopment plan that promotes mixed-use development combining commercial, residential and retail space in a more pedestrian-friendly atmosphere.

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