We would like to conclude our campaign to bring Whole Foods Market to the DC USA retail complex. It is becoming increasingly clear that negotiations between Whole Foods and DC USA developers have reached an impasse. Neither party is willing to come back to the bargaining table. Grid Properties is moving on and talking with many potential retailers to fill the 50,000 square feet of retail space left vacant by Whole Foods.
This unfortunate situation resulted from two main issues. Whole Foods Market wants dedicated parking and 14th Street frontage. Whole Foods signed a letter of intent several years ago knowing full well that those demands could not be met. It was then that Grid Properties carved out space along Irving Street for Whole Foods. Grid could have just as easily set aside space along 14th Street at that early of a stage in lease signings but Whole Foods representatives did not make that requirement known. There was no way Grid could keep the entire first level vacant until Whole Foods decided where they wanted to be.
In terms of parking, the restrictions on dedicated parking was made clear from the very beginning when the publicly chartered firm, National Capital Revitalization Corporation, claimed ownership of the three level parking garage. Peter Mallios of Newmark Knight Frank, the main leasing agent for DC USA, tried to clear up this parking situation. A few months ago, he wrote us:
If you can get the city to give me some information on the parking I would be happy to run it up the flagpole, but like I said, we cannot guarantee them spaces. It might help if someone from the city put in writing what the parking policy and rates will be. However the city won't discount anyones parking because it is unfair to the other retailers.
You also need to understand retail parking. In a suburban setting retailers like Target and Whole Foods need 5 spaces per 1,000 feet of space. That means a 500,000 project I'm suburbia would have about 2,500 spaces, while we only have 1,000. The project was designed and approved based on the premise that half the customers will visit the project on foot or using cabs and mass transit. All the current retailers are willing to accept this, but I think this is part of Whole Foods issue. If 5,000 people who lived within 4 blocks of the project said they want to shop there, and they are currently walking to Giant, that would be impressive. If 500 people express their love for the store, they are probably already shopping at P street.
We just updated our email count. We have been copied on an additional thirty-three emails to Karen Riley, a Whole Foods representative, since our last update in May. This brings the total count to 399. Again, this count only represents the emails that we were copied on. We were told by Whole Foods representatives that they had received several hundreds more. Emails are still trickling in and our Whole Foods petition continues to gain entries. For what its worth, we will compile all these materials and send them to Whole Foods corporate.
When we started this campaign to bring Whole Foods to DC USA early last year, we knew we were facing an uphill battle. But we had no idea just how inflexible Whole Foods would become despite such strong community support. We are very sorry it came down to this. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has contributed to this effort. But in the end, we feel this is more of a loss to Whole Foods than it is to the community, especially if we can lure another specialty grocer to Columbia Heights.
At this point, Ellwood Thompson's seems to be the most promising prospect. They are extremely enthusiastic about Columbia Heights and feel that DC USA would be the perfect location for them. We hope you will join us in encouraging them to come to Columbia Heights.
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