Whole Foods coming to former Backus Property
6:20 a.m. CDT, May 3, 2012
Whole Foods will indeed be the anchor store in the retail center planned at the former Backus family automobile dealership on Victory Drive.
The high-end grocer made its long-rumored Savannah arrival official Wednesday in its quarterly earnings report. Whole Foods announced eight new leases signed during the year’s first three months, including the Savannah store.
The 35,000-square-foot store is expected to open in fall 2014.
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Mike Howard, Whole Foods’ regional vice president, called Savannah a “terrific location” as the company expands its presence in the Southeast.
“The Savannah community is ready for a new grocery option and a new place to celebrate good food and healthy eating,” Howard said. “We are excited to bring another store to Georgia, and we’re happy to be growing some roots in the beautiful city of Savannah.”
Whole Foods was attracted to the Backus site because of its accessibility in all directions via the Truman Parkway and Victory Drive, said local real estate agent David Sink of Colliers International, who represents the companies redeveloping the site.
“Those in downtown, the Landings, the islands, Ardsley and everywhere in between can get there quickly and easily,” Sink said. “The visibility will be great. And with the Truman being extended to Abercorn, the traffic counts will only increase.”
Redevelopment of the Backus site is scheduled to commence in early July with the demolition of the landmark pink buildings that long housed Backus’ showroom and mechanical shops. The developers, Atlanta-based Knightswood and S.J. Collins Enterprises, are still in the process of closing on purchases of the various properties to be assembled for the retail center, Sink said.
“The lease has been signed,” Sink said, “but there are still plenty of items we need to get accomplished.”
The Chatham County-Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission and Savannah City Council approved the redevelopment plan in February. The developers are still working with the Georgia Department of Transportation and the city of Savannah on traffic-flow issues.
Plans call for westbound traffic to access the site via Dixie Avenue, located on the western edge of the development. A traffic light will be installed at the Victory Drive and Dixie Avenue intersection.
The project could be completed and ready for occupancy as early as October 2013.
Whole Foods has been rumored as the anchor tenant for the retail center since April 2011. Knightswood’s Ian Smith at the time confirmed Whole Foods was among several food retailers his firm had contacted about the proposed retail center.
The site has been vacant since October 2009 when General Motors revoked the Backus dealership’s franchise agreement as part of larger cost-cutting measures. The Backus family had sold Cadillacs and Pontiacs on the site for 54 years.