Whole Foods construction cropping up along Interstate 70 in Frisco
October 3, 2013
Instead of meeting inside the chambers, the group gathered outside a fenced-off construction zone. Each representative put on a hard hat before trudging along dirt paths, amid the beeps and rumble of heavy equipment and other machinery at the site of the future Whole Foods Market retail complex.
A large concrete building is taking shape on the far right of the development site entrance. This 32,000-square-foot structure will transform into a supermarket specializing in natural and organic products, and will serve as the anchor of the complex.
When finished, the 9.4-acre parcel will be comprised of five commercial/retail buildings, including Whole Foods, an inline retail building, the gateway building, a wellness building and regional retail building.
“As you come around the corner here, the whole thing just explodes,” O’Neil said. “You’ve got a park in the middle and the entrance to Whole Foods in the distance. The idea is to pull everyone along the shops and into the parking lot of the Whole Foods.”
Brynn Grey X LLC developer David O'Neil did his best to bring the blueprints and architectural sketches to life during the tour, describing where each of the buildings would be located and features along the project site.
"As you come around the corner here, the whole thing just explodes," O'Neil said. "You've got a park in the middle and the entrance to Whole Foods in the distance. The idea is to pull everyone along the shops and into the parking lot of the Whole Foods."
Frisco Councilwoman Kim Cancelosi expressed gratitude with the way the project was coming together.
"This is even better than what the drawings show," she said during the site tour.
O'Neil said the project layout was designed to flow, making it easy for people to get around the area.
The developer said the retail complex would also feature a park, public bathrooms and a place for pet owners to walk their dogs.
"Throughout the whole development — unlike any other grocery-centered shopping mall you've seen — there is huge connectivity from the park in the center, to pedestrian and bike connections and the transit center," he said. "So once you park you are going to be able to get around the center without risking your life."
O'Neil said he expected Whole Foods to spur more development activity.
"All of this stuff will just create more energy, and that's great to get more people to the area from I-70," he said.
"None of this would be happening without you guys suffering with me the past two years," he told town representatives.
Constructing the center
The developer was joined by on-site contractors during the site tour, including project manager Mark Riedel from Saunders Construction.
Riedel said there's about 50 construction workers currently onsite as the Whole Foods building is being constructed.
"The Whole Foods building and permit process has gone well and we are also hoping to get started on the inline building soon," he said.
Project managers said road paving is also slated to begin, weather depending, within the next few weeks.
O'Neil said workers had to pay special attention to the base of the road due to poor soil quality.
"We came in and over-excavated the material, brought in rock and put a road base which will provide structural integrity," he said.
The developer also said contractors had discovered an "underground river" coming in from under I-70.
"That created some issues. So we intercepted that water and we are going to take that ground water and discharge it into the wetland," he said.
O'Neil said contractors were monitoring water quality within the wetlands to make sure it wasn’t being impacted adversely by construction.
"We've really done a great job creating a separation from the wetlands," he said.
The Whole Foods development parcel not only borders wetlands, it's also in close proximity to a residential neighborhood, the backside of commercial structures and the Summit Stage Transfer Center. Developer O'Neil said when the development is complete, it will all flow together.
"When we're all finished with the landscaping, the connections will work so it will feel like it's seamless," he said.
Making the sale
The Frisco Town Council and staff members have been paying close attention to the project, which is being developed on the land formally known as the "interstate parcel."
The parcel was owned by the town until late May, when the council voted to sell the property to Brynn Grey for $4.5 million, with no payments due until June 2024. The land had been appraised for 6.75 million in 2011.
The sale sparked public criticism during a standing-room only May 28 council meeting. During the meeting, a few community members described the sale as unfair to small business owners and claimed sales negotiations shouldn't have been held behind closed doors in executive sessions. Others urged the council to go ahead and move the project forward.
The town council went through with the sale, citing other factors that needed to be considered beyond the appraised value of the property. The Whole Foods project is a widely accepted use for the property, in contrast to previous proposals made for the land, according to town representatives. Town manager Bill Efting said in May that a delay of sale would only lead to loss of revenue for the town. Town representatives also argued that the sales tax generated by the Whole Foods development would be a significant boon to the town budget.
A Colorado comparison
Reports released by the town of Frisco estimate $1 million in sales tax revenue will be brought in every year from the development of the Whole Foods supermarket and accompanying enterprises.
A Whole Foods that opened in Basalt revived the town's sluggish sales tax revenues, according to a report by the Aspen Times. The opening of that grocery store spurred a 34 percent surge in the town's retail food category.
While the report credits Whole Foods' presence as helping fill vacancies and spurring development at the Willits Town Center, it also reported town officials catching flack for creating a commercial powerhouse that has made tough competition for the downtown core.
Frisco Town Council member Kathleen Bartz expressed a similar sentiment during the Whole Foods site tour on Tuesday.
"I think one of the concerns we've heard over the years is that now we are going to get people off I-70 — which is something we've been trying to for a gazillion years —but we do need to move them up to Main Street and get the mom and pop places frequented," Bartz said.
While developer O'Neil said he didn't have an immediate answer, he said he planned to meet with Whole Foods representatives to discuss cross marketing within the town, and invited members of the council to take part in those conversations.