Whole Foods planned to break ground on its 55,000-square-foot new location at The Domain less than five years ago. The economic downturn halted some efforts, but the company continued working with Endeavor Real Estate Group to turn plans into reality.
"As we moved throughout that storm, Whole Foods kept working with us, kept talking about the fact that they still wanted to do this store," said Endeavor CEO Kirk Rudy, whose firm is in charge of overall development at The Domain.
Whole Foods celebrated its groundbreaking with Endeavor, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Councilman Mike Martinez and other involved on the project Nov. 2 at the new site. The company is planning to open the store in March 2013.
The new store is located just north of The Domain's main entrance and sign off of the frontage road to MoPac and will ultimately replace the Whole Foods at The Gateway shopping center, 9607 Research Blvd.
Laura Zappi, executive marketing coordinator for Whole Foods, said they have outgrown the space at the Gateway location. She said the new store will have more parking, wider aisles and more variety in food, although she did not go into detail about what that variety could be.
"The support of this community is why we've been able to grow across this country," Zappi said.
Leffingwell called The Domain a model project of others around the country. He said he had heard earlier in the day that The Domain is planning to expand to nearby property formerly owned by The University of Texas.
Endeavor is continuing with two new residential construction projects, one of which is already under way. Parkside, a new four-story apartment complex, will feature 315 one- and two-bedroom units on the south end of Esperanza Crossing. In December, Endeavor will break ground on the second phase of construction for 220 apartments.
Leffingwell praised Whole Foods' start as a small business that started in Austin and is now a Fortune 500 company with stores around the world. He also mentioned how Whole Foods voluntarily eliminated the use of plastic bags at its check-out counters in Austin and had such success with it that the company implemented that policy in its stores across the United States.
"They represent a lot of what makes Austin unique and a sustainable community that is focused on a healthy lifestyle," Leffingwell said. "Whole Foods has been a leader."
He said that Whole Foods' commitment to growth even during an economic downturn has helped the city continue as a leader for the United States.
"What we're looking at here is the basis of what will be Austin's second downtown, the North Burnet gateway development," Leffingwell said. "It's going to be something that will help lead Austin into the next century and the rest of the century as a leader in the United States of America."