Whole Foods Market, a national retailer of natural and organic foods that will make its first appearance in the Buffalo market, will fill a huge void in an Amherst plaza in need of an update.
A New England-based developer plans to buy the Northtown Plaza on Sheridan Drive, knock down the former Bon-Ton store and replace it with a Whole Foods by 2016, The Buffalo News has learned.
News that the supermarket was coming to the Buffalo area was announced in May, but more details emerged Wednesday after developers met with Amherst officials this week.
WS Developers, based in Chestnut Hill, Mass., outside Boston, plans to buy and redevelop the plaza, said Amherst Supervisor Barry A. Weinstein.
The first phase of the project will be demolishing a long-vacant portion of Northtown that housed the Bon-Ton, until the department store closed in 2007. Developers will then build on that site a 50,000-square-foot store to bring in a Whole Foods, Weinstein said.
The sale of the plaza is contingent on the town’s approval of plans, which should be filed within the next couple of months, the supervisor said.
The sale is expected to close by the end of the year, with construction beginning in 2015 and an opening by the spring of 2016.
As for the rest of Northtown Plaza, future plans are still unclear, Weinstein said, but may include moving tenants around or bringing in some new ones.
“They made it clear they have no immediate plans for the remainder of the plaza,” said Gary Black, the town’s assistant planning director. “There’s a potential phase two, but they want to see how things play out.”
The addition of Whole Foods, however, is a shot in the arm for the plaza, which currently houses such businesses as My Tomato Pie, Taste of India, Falafel Bar, Carolina Furniture, Jackson Hewitt, First Niagara Bank and an Amherst office of the Erie County Department of Motor Vehicles.
“It’s holding its own, but it’s in need of modernization,” Weinstein said of the plaza. “It will give a major boost for the Northtown neighborhood.”
Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas, operates 14 stores in New York State; the 15th is scheduled to open in Albany this month. The company also has another six stores, including the Amherst location, in development throughout the state.
The chain has a reputation of high quality and natural foods, and is expected to be a hit in the Buffalo area.
It joins a growing market of specialty grocers aimed at upscale shoppers. A Trader Joe’s opened last fall on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst, while Tops recently opened its Orchard Fresh concept store in Orchard Park.
Whole Foods will be coming into an area that already is well served with grocery stores. In addition to the nearby Trader Joes’s, there is a Wegmans just north of Sheridan Drive on Alberta Drive and a Tops Market at Alberta and Maple Road.