Whole Foods – The Real Story

I was troubled recently when Whole Foods announced that it was withdrawing its proposal to build a new store on the old Lakewood Minyards site, and instead was going to reuse the old building. What troubled me was that Whole Foods seemed to blame the the neighborhood and plan commissioners for the decision.

See, Whole Foods couldn’t build their new store with the current zoning standards, so they had to get a zoning change. Like any zoning change, the process involved meetings with the neighborhood and the area’s plan commissioners. The process is inclusive, but not excessively onerous.

After a number of meetings, Whole Foods announced two weeks ago that they had decided not to build a new store because of the so-called challenging and lengthy zoning process.

I wante d to set the record straight. I spoke with Whole Foods’ Seth Stutzman two days before they publicly announced their decision, and he explained that after they got into the zoning case, they did a cost comparison of building a new store versus redoing the old Minyards store. They were shocked to see that the redo would cost $4.5M less than a new store. It would also allow for a more environmentally-friendly store.

I asked Seth, if the zoning change sailed through, would they consider constructing the new building? He said probably not, because of the significant cost savings.

I don’t begrudge Whole Foods’ business decision. What bothers me is their attributing their decision to the “onerous” zoning process when the real reason for their decision is financial.

Whole Foods tried to clarify their position, but never explained it to the media as clearly as Seth did to me. So I wanted everyone to have the benefit of this information.

I liked the proposed new store, but I’m sure that Whole Foods’ redo will be great. I’m thrilled they’re coming to Lakewood, and I’m excited about a “green” store. I just want to make sure our inclusive zoning process is not blamed for a business decision.