Rumors are swirling that the long-promised Whole Foods Market may not be opening in the Pacific Station development. The opening was announced back in November 2007:
A notice issued Thursday by Whole Foods says a 25,000-square-foot store will open at Pacific Station, a planned center on South Coast Highway 101 at F Street.
The "mixed-use" project proposed by developer John DeWald calls for two three-story buildings, a two-story restaurant and two levels of underground parking on the 1.39-acre lot between E and F streets.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring and last 14 to 18 months, DeWald said Thursday.
"We are thrilled to be opening our third San Diego store in Encinitas, a community that embodies the health-conscious lifestyle that Whole Foods Market caters to," spokeswoman Marci Frumkin said in a statement.
As recently as this past April, Downtown Encinitas Main Street Association said, "Construction has topped out on the project and work is continuing towards completion this summer. The retail tenant build outs including Whole Foods should be commencing soon."
So why are there no Whole Foods signs going up even as finishing touches like the "Park" sign and building address go on the exterior?
Encinitas is still listed as "in development" on Whole Foods' web site. An e-mail to a Whole Foods spokeswoman was not returned as of the time of this post. A A phone call to an employee at the Whole Foods regional headquarters revealed that there was no firm opening date, but plans are for a Spring 2011 opening.
The developer has posted a "Notice of Non Responsibility" in the window naming Mrs. Gooch's Natural Food Markets as the tenant. This is a standard form that landlords post to avoid responsibility for construction bills that are owed by the tenant. Mrs. Gooch's is the southern California subsidiary of Whole Foods, so on the surface, Pacific Station still believes Whole Foods is coming in. However, the notice was dated April 2010, and there appears to be no work going on inside the building.
It's certainly possible that Whole Foods is getting cold feet. Construction has taken longer than planned, and the economy is a lot shakier than it was when the store was originally planned. It's also possible that Whole Foods still plans to open the store, but is renegotiating a better rent rate. And Del Mar is also on the development list. Maybe Whole Foods is playing the two locations against each other to get the best deal.