Whole Foods seeks another site after its Ward plan fails


POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Whole Foods Market is looking for another downtown Honolulu site after construction of what was originally to be its flagship store at Ward never materialized.

Construction of the store, which was being built by General Growth Properties on a six-acre site, halted in December of last year amid financial woes.

A parking structure and the skeleton of the store were erected, but were left in limbo as General Growth of Chicago went into debt and eventually filed for bankruptcy reorganization.

While the Ward site was originally slated for completion first, Whole Foods opened its inaugural store in Hawaii at Kahala Mall last September.

General Growth spokesman James Graham could not be reached for comment in Chicago by late yesterday.

The Texas-based natural foods retailer said it wants to build on the success of its Kahala Mall store, and still expects to open its second Whole Foods at Maui Mall in February.

The Maui store will measure about 26,000 square feet, comparable in size to the Kahala Mall store, and create about 140 new jobs.

General Growth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April, at that time with about $27 billion in debt. Its reorganization plan, filed yesterday in a New York bankruptcy court, outlines an agreement to restructure about $9.7 billion in shopping mall mortgage loans.

The second-largest U.S. mall owner revealed no plans to unload top-selling malls such as Ala Moana Center, although it at one time marketed Ward Centers, a collection of retail centers on 60 acres in Kakaako slated for redevelopment.

Whole Foods Market originally envisioned a two-story, 67,000-square-foot store at Ward, next door to the Hokua at 1288 Ala Moana, one of Kakaako's new luxury residential towers.

Eventually, those plans were scaled back last summer to a one-level, 35,000-square-foot store, with a target opening date of 2010, but those plans have now been scrapped.

Whole Foods still expects to open a 40,000-square-foot store in Kailua in the fall of 2011.