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Whole Foods to open store in Hyde Park

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Whole Foods Market will open its first Chicago store south of Roosevelt Road on the ground floor of a 150-unit condo tower slated to replace the Village Center shopping mall at 51st and Lake Park Avenue. The store will open in summer 2014 and employ 125 full- and part-time workers.

The 30,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market will have up to 188 free underground parking spaces and will include décor reflecting the Hyde Park neighborhood, large fresh-food and bulk-good sections, a sit-down bar and pouring station serving beer and wine, and a cooking classroom with tips on eating fresh and healthy foods, said Michael Bashaw, president of Whole Foods’ Midwest region.

A Whole Foods store had been rumored to be part of the Harper Court shopping center redevelopment, but the condo tower site offered better store layout and parking options, Bashaw said.

The Whole Foods Market site at 5105 S. Harper is two blocks north of Harper Court, a shopping center at 5211 S. Harper that will be redeveloped into the site of a hotel, retail and office complex.

Hyde Park shoppers will be among the first to see Whole Foods Market’s latest progressive initiative — ensuring that animals are treated humanely before they wind up as packaged eats.

“Farmers must meet 131 criteria to meet our minimum animal-welfare standards, including that animals cannot be kept in crates, stalls or cages,” Bashaw said. “We intend to lead the way on animal welfare just as we did with organic foods from our inception.”

The Hyde Park store won’t open until 2014 because of the extensive development required, and is set to replace a Village Foods store that has been in the shopping center since its inception 46 years ago.

Whole Foods has come under fire for opening stores in primarily white, affluent neighborhoods. Its six existing stores are in the Gold Coast, Lincoln Park, Sauganash, South Loop and two in Lakeview, including one in Boystown. Whole Foods operates 11 stores in the suburbs.

Bashaw said the Austin, Texas-based company’s real-estate development often takes years and requires a complex set of circumstances be met, including available and appropriate property and a highly educated population that is amenable to the store’s size and location.

He said the Hyde Park store is the right size for the neighborhood.

Whole Foods Market stores average 36,000 square feet.

The grocer is seeing an uptick in its sales as the economy starts to improve, and plans to open 10 to 12 new stores in Illinois in the next five to seven years.

The Original Pancake House, another long-term tenant at the Village Center, is expected to become a part of the new development, the property owner said. The pancake restaurant now occupies about 3,000 square feet and attracts long lines of customers on Sunday mornings.

The development will include 10,000 square feet of space for small, locally owned retail.

The condo tower will sit next to a mid-rise building with 29 residential units. No decision has been made on whether the 179 total units will be rental or owned units.

Award-winning architect Jeanne Gang is designing the complex to include a “green” roof and sustainable construction materials.

The property’s adjacency to public transit and Hyde Park’s other retail arteries will give residents greater access to shopping, said Eli Ungar, a partner at property owner Antheus Capital.

“We think everyone will benefit,” he said.

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