Rendering via Hickok-Cole
Rendering via Hickok-Cole

The poorly-kept secret is finally out. The Harbor East Whole Foods is moving to a new store on Central Ave. The move is only a few blocks, but will basically double the grocery store’s current size.

The new store will seek to avoid the backups and occasional cart collisions of the current Fleet St. store with 50,000 sq. ft. of space. That’s more than double its current size. Plans also call for a second floor cafe and two (!) outdoor patios overlooking Lancaster St.

Construction is expected to start later this year on the new store. Harbor East officials have yet to determine a new tenant to replace Whole Foods when it eventually moves out.

“Over the years Harbor East has grown into a vibrant and dynamic neighborhood,” Scott Allshouse, Mid-Atlantic regional president at Whole Foods Market, said in a statement. “We see Baltimore as an incredible area of opportunity and are so pleased to grow along with development and the community as a whole.”

Whole Foods was one of the first tenants of Harbor East, opening in 2002 at the corner of Fleet and Exeter Sts. The development has grown up fast around the market, and is quickly expanding toward Fell’s Point.

Construction is also underway on the 27-acre Harbor Point nearby, and the new Whole Foods location will be on the ground floors of a mixed-use project developed by the Bozzuto Group. The building will have 290 luxury apartments and 45 condos.

A bridge is in the works that will extend Central Ave. across to Harbor Point, sending traffic right in front of the market, whether they’re going on or off the peninsula.

The announcement puts months of speculation about the move to rest.  That’s a good thing, because it was getting a little silly. As plans for the Bozzuto Group development became public, it forced a lot of awkward public meetings as developers said “grocery store” in response to questions about Whole Foods, but barely concealed their wink. The Daily Record’s Adam Bednar even caught one such developer slipping up at a City Hall meeting.

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.