Locals praise Whole Foods prospect
February 7, 2012
Compared to the Home Depot discussions a few years back, Frisco’s open house sessions Tuesday regarding a potential Whole Foods were a love fest.
Residents and business owners turned out in impressive numbers to offer feedback on the proposal for the natural grocer building on the town-owned Interstate parcel – and most of it was positive.
By 8:15 a.m., Frisco Town Council members and town staff had greeted a handful of interested residents and were shaking hands with a few more who showed up for the latter half of the morning open house.
“People are genuinely excited about this opportunity,” Frisco Mayor Bill Pelham said, comparing Tuesday’s written and verbal feedback to comments received during planning for the Peak One neighborhood, the Colorado Mountain College prospect on the Frisco Peninsula and Home Depot eyeing the interstate parcel in 2005. The Home Depot project was eventually turned down in a 566-425 popular vote after several bouts of negative feedback behind the slogan “Frisco can do better.”
Whole Foods has approached the town, through developer David O’Neil, with interest in building on the interstate parcel, a piece of town-owned land along Interstate 70 and adjacent to the Summit Stage Frisco Transit Center.
Currently, it’s in the very preliminary stages without studies, design plans or solid commitment from the grocer.
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Town council and staff will bring the feedback to the February 14 meeting, when council will make the formal decision on whether or not to negotiate the opportunity with O’Neil on the opportunity.
Though most of the feedback has been positive, including posts on a “Friends of Whole Foods Frisco” Facebook page, many community members advised the Frisco Town Council to do their due diligence in the details.
Many wanted to stay informed of the building’s appearance from the Interstate. Others wanted to know tax revenue impacts, both positive and negative, to the town and its small businesses – like the small natural grocer, Alpine Market and Deli, on Main Street.
Still others suggested Frisco officials emphasize the importance of “green” building techniques – some even going as far as suggesting Whole Foods incorporate solar in the design. Frisco community development director Jocelyn Mills said some “green standards” are already in place that must be adhered to for new commercial development.
Town Councilman Kent Willis said it’s good to get such feedback so early in the process.
“We want to address concerns now,” he said, so initial supporters don’t turn their backs on the project down the road.
Part-time Frisco resident Sally Carpenter said she’d look to Whole Foods as her primary grocer, as she does in Madison, Wisc. the eight months of the year she’s not in Summit County. She tends toward the fresh fish and produce as well as Whole Foods branded coffee and other items.
However, Carpenter recognized that, at roughly 25,000 square feet, the Frisco Whole Foods wouldn’t offer the same selection as the much-larger Madison store so she’ll be shopping elsewhere, too. In comparison, Safeway is 45,000 square feet and Walmart is 70,000 square feet.
“I have no concerns except that it might not succeed,” Carpenter said, adding that though her business would likely switch from Dillon’s Vitamin Cottage to the Frisco Whole Foods, she believes the incoming store likely wouldn’t hurt other businesses.
For Aardvac Vacuum Shop owner Dave Love, Whole Foods is a good addition for its fresh items as well as its deli counter.
“Our quick lunch opportunities are kind of limited here,” said Love, who stops into the Whole Foods on Colfax Avenue as a treat when he runs errands in Denver. He says he’s a proponent of commercial development that parallels community growth. To him, more than six years is a long time to wait for a new proposal to come along.
“I hope this is the one type of business the whole town can feel good about supporting,” said the previous supporter of both Home Depot and Colorado Mountain College. He added, “Countywide, it’s a good location. We can grab a lot of destination people before they head to their units for the week.”
Like Carpenter, Love doesn’t expect much impact to Summit County’s niche businesses – so long as they’re proactive. Love used his store as an example.
When Walmart opened roughly two years after he began selling vacuum cleaners in 1986, “They tore into half my product line,” he said. So, he took a different business tactic, selling higher-end products and offering service. “If you want to stay in business, you can figure it out.”