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February 11, 2014

Whole Foods Market Opens in Mid-City

By Eliza Theiss, Associate Editor

Whole Foods Market, the natural and organic food retailer, expanded its New Orleans presence by opening a location on the corner of Broad and Bienville streets. The 25,000-square-foot store represents a major step toward revitalizing the Broad Street corridor, as the company redeveloped a long-blighted property, once home to a Robert’s Fresh Market and a Schwegmann’s supermarket. The new store retains the original terrazzo floor and reuses lettering from the old store sign, reclaimed graffiti art and pallet wood as design features. Further eco-friendly features include electric vehicle charging and bike fix-it stations. The location will sell 330 local grocery products, as well as local art. Healthy eating classes and events will be hold both on-site and throughout the community.

The $14 million grocery store has created 125 new full-time jobs, 74 percent of which are currently occupied by Orleans Parish residents. The city’s JOB1 Business and Career Solutions and the Office of Workforce Development assisted the retailer with recruiting events, hiring and training services, in an effort to ensure that new employees were sourced from the local workforce pool.

Whole Foods Broad Street is part of the 60,000-square-foot ReFresh project, which aims to be an economic and community anchor for the Broad Street neighborhoods, while also providing a high-quality fresh food source for a historically underserved area of the city. When completed, the mixed-use development will also house Liberty’s Kitchen, Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and FirstLine Schools, as well as the headquarters of Broad Community Connections, the developer of ReFresh. Not-for-profit Broad Community Connections is focused on revitalizing the Broad Street corridor, stretching from Tulane Avenue to Bayou Road.

The new Whole Foods location and ReFresh are part of the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI), a $14 million program offering low-cost, flexible financing to retailers who renovate, expand or open stores that sell fresh groceries in the city’s low-income food deserts. As such, ReFresh received a $1 million loan from the FFRI, half of which is forgivable, similar to the newly reopened landmark Circle Food Store in the Seventh Ward (more on that story here).  ReFresh also received a $900,000 award through the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority’s (NORA) Commercial Corridor Revitalization Program.

Whole Foods is celebrating the opening by donating 1 percent of its five-day New Orleans net sales to New Orleans nonprofits.

Click here for further New Orleans market data.

Images courtesy of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office.

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