Whole Foods to open on North Broad and Bienville streets
25th February 2013 · 0 Comments
By Lianna Patch
Mid-City residents tired of the vacant former Schwegmann’s supermarket at the corner of North Broad and Bienville Streets will soon have a new place to make groceries.
The 60,000-foot building, which has sat languishing since Hurricane Katrina, will undergo a redevelopment that will include a 25,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market made possible in part by the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative, Mayor Landrieu recently announced.
“Awarding this FFRI loan is an important step toward promoting a better quality of life for residents in this Mid-City neighborhood and fostering healthier lifestyle habits for all of our citizens,” said Mayor Landrieu.
Spearheaded by local nonprofit group Broad Community Connections and New York-based firm L+M Development Partners, the blighted Mid-City location will include other occupants offering neighborhood residents education, guidance and information on creating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Broad Community Connections will release more details about the space’s other tenants in upcoming weeks.
In 2011, Mayor Landrieu announced $14 million in loan money for grocery store developers building in areas that lack fresh produce, forming the New Orleans Fresh Food Retailer Initiative (FFRI). Broad Community Connections took advantage, securing a $1 million FFRI loan for the site, with up to $500,000 forgivable. The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority added an additional $900,000 of funding through its Commercial Corridor Revitalization program. New Orleans is also partnering with The Food Trust, a national nonprofit focusing on expanding underprivileged city resident access to fresh food.
Mid-City residents expressed mostly positive opinions on the Whole Foods development, noting that the immediate surrounding area has lacked a fresh produce supplier since Robert Fresh Market, which replaced Schwegmann’s, flooded in 2005. Despite daily city patrols by neighborhood veggie vendor Mr. Okra, almost 60 percent of New Orleans’ low-income residents must drive three or more miles to reach a full-service grocery, according to a 2010 Tulane University survey.
Rouses Market maintains a store at the corner of Carrollton Avenue and Conti Street just over a mile from the North Broad property, and Winn-Dixie is set to open a market directly across the street from the Carrollton Rouses. Mid-City resident Denise Dirks expressed enthusiasm for the new Whole Foods and Winn-Dixie locations, citing low-quality produce and bad service as two reasons she will be glad to have an alternative to Rouses. Laura Bergerol, another frequent Carrollton Rouses shopper, also supports the new Whole Foods opening, calling it “much-needed” to fill the gap in Mid-City fresh food availability.
One Faubourg St. John resident who asked not to be named expressed disappointment with the new Whole Foods’ location. “They said that it was in a neighborhood where you needed grocery stores,” she said, “and I thought that [Mid-City] couldn’t possibly be right… how about the Bywater, how about St. Roch, something that actually needs a grocery store?” She listed the Carrollton Rouses, upcoming Winn-Dixie, Canseco’s Market on Esplanade, and the Mexican/Central American-specialty IDEAL Discount Market on Carrollton Avenue and Canal Boulevard as viable market options for Mid-City residents.
According to the City of New Orleans, Whole Foods plans to hire 80 to 100 employees for the Broad Street store. The Whole Foods is expected to be completed by December 2013.
This article was originally published in the February 25, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper