Whole Foods building permit for Amherst to be filed in January

The site of the region’s first Whole Foods supermarket has been cleared and work on the new Northtown Plaza anchor is slated to start early next year.

Andrew Manning, WS Development project manager, said he expects to file a building permit with the Town of Amherst just after the first of the year. An approved permit, which is expected, clears the way for the construction of the two-story, 50,000-square-foot supermarket to begin.

WS Development spent much of the summer and fall months prepping the site for the Whole Foods store.

“Everything is good to go,” Manning said.

The Massachusetts-based developer razed a former and long-closed Bon-Ton department store to make way for the Whole Foods supermarket. The store is the first of a planned dramatic transformation for the 63-year-old Sheridan Drive shopping center. In all, WS Development, which is headquartered in the Boston suburb of Chestnut Hill, plans on investing more than $75 million rebuilding the plaza.

Whole Foods represents the face of Northtown Plaza’s rebirth. The store will be Texas-based Whole Foods first in the Western New York region.

“The changes we will be making will be fairly obvious,” Manning said. “Retailers and shoppers don’t just look for a building, they look for an experience.”

Manning declined to identify other retailers headed to the shopping center.

WS Development paid $18.5 million for the 375,000-square-foot plaza, according to documents filed in the Erie County Clerk’s office. The deal, more than one year in the making, closed in May ending the Luther family’s longtime ownership of the plaza.

The Northtown Plaza deal is the first in New York state for WS Development.

“We had our eye on New York state and, in particular, Western New York for quite some time,” Manning said. “This is the right fit, the right opportunity and the right mix.”

Just the Whole Foods project alone represents a $15 million investment.

WS Development has a real estate portfolio of more than 20 million square feet and another 4 million in its development pipeline. The closest property it has to the Buffalo Niagara region is the Millcreek Town Center in Erie, Pa. The 350,000-square-feet plaza is anchored by a Walmart store.

At least 17 of S.R. Weiner’s shopping centers have Whole Foods as an anchor or primary tenant.

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