In the second half of my City Talk column today, I wrote about the symbolic importance of Savannah getting a Whole Foods.
Coincidentally, a Facebook friend yesterday sent me a great piece from Salon: Whole Foods is coming? Time to buy
The headline is overstated; the piece is pretty clear that individual neighborhood amenities add value to real estate, but it doesn’t happen overnight.
“What neighborhood?” some might ask concerning the Whole Foods in Savannah.
Well, our Whole Foods at the old Backus Cadillac at the corner of Victory Drive and the Truman Parkway will certainly be accessible within 20 minutes to a large percentage of the metro area, but it’s also going to be incredibly convenient to the Parkside neighborhood, to various neighborhoods off Bee Road, to neighborhoods north of Victory Drive from the Truman west, to the Waters Avenue corridor that needs revitalization, and even to the whole 52nd Street/Delesseps corridor.
Even though we in Savannah think of the areas I’ve listed as starkly different neighborhoods, they’re all within a few minutes of each other (by bike or by car) on the east side of town.
If you ask Whole Foods why itâ€™s breaking ground on a store in Midtown Detroit this month, itâ€™ll say it wants to be part of â€œan incredible communityâ€ and â€œmake natural foods available to everyone.â€
And that may be. But itâ€™s also true that the Austin, Texas-based retailer has made a science of putting down roots in urban locations at what often seems to be just the right moment. In Washington, D.C., near Logan Circle in 2000, Uptown New Orleans and the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh in 2002, Bostonâ€™s â€œLatin Quarterâ€ in Jamaica Plain in 2011 â€” areas that other specialty grocers might have considered unworthy of goat cheese and ostrich eggs, but that were actually on the verge of a boom that, lo and behold, kicked into high gear as soon as Whole Foods moved in.
And a direct comment on how the “Whole Foods Effect” can benefit business investment:
â€œBefore a Whole Foods goes in, if thereâ€™s not much private investment in that district, thereâ€™s no data for developers to look at,â€ says [Bill Reid, a principal at the Portland, Ore., land-use consultancy Johnson Reid]. A publicly traded behemoth is a data-generating machine. â€œYou can go to their annual report and see how many customers theyâ€™re getting, how much traffic,â€ which lures other potential developers. And those other developers can bring Whole Foodsâ€™ numbers to a lender to get a loan. â€œTo a lender and a developer, those are bankable numbers,â€ says Reid. â€œTheyâ€™re as good as gold for a business.â€