Last week we speculated whether the Whole Foods project planned for downtown Jersey City was still moving forward. With rumors swirling online as well as little progress on the project since it was announced, we began having doubts. Now, a source close to the deal, who requested anonymity, confirmed our suspicions–the deal has collapsed.
According to the source, “the site is contaminated with chromium and the management has to hire contractor to dig and throw the chromium every 6-8 months.” Residents of the Metrolpolis towers co-op are even required to relocate their vehicles to temporarily assigned spaces while the cleanup is underway.
Mayor Fulop first announced the details of the deal last year. Saying, “Really excited to share positive news that Whole Foods formally announced today they will be opening a Jersey City store. Lots of conversations to get this completed and I think it will be a huge positive for residents and visitors. I said it from the beginning… We aren’t playing around, and we all share the goal of wanting to push forward a stronger city. This store will be located outside the Grove Street Path Station.” (Emphasis added.)
What’s surprising is that site contamination was the culprit behind the deal falling apart. As with many former industrial properties in Jersey City, soil contamination is a common problem. For a project that was very publicly announced, why was a soil test not performed before completing the deal?
Other factors could be at play too. Facing increasing competition in the high-end grocery market, Whole Foods has had a difficult few years financially. Which led to the company’s acquisition by Amazon last month. With new ownership in place, what happens to the company’s previous expansion plans?
For comparison, Hartz Mountain announced in June that New Jersey’s first 365 by Whole Foods store will be coming to their Lincoln Harbor development. This announcement came as a fully finalized deal with an immediate ground breaking following. The project is now well underway and is expected to open next year. The Jersey City deal, on the other hand, came with a targeted opening date of 2020–4 years after it was announced. So the question becomes, why announce the Jersey City store so preemptively?
Whatever the reasons, for now, downtown Jersey City will continue to lack a national high-end grocery option. However, there are still plenty of options to fill the void. Sprout Marketplace (now known as Sprove) at 70 Columbus offers a great selection of packaged and prepared foods. If you can manage the crowds, the Shoprite location at Metro Plaza is great for the basics. For a more exotic selection, the newly-opened 99 Ranch is a great option. Or we can support local business by shopping at specialty retailers such as Jersey City Fish Stand or Van Hook Cheese & Grocery.
Update: After publication, Whole Foods contacted us with the following statement: “We remain as committed as ever to bringing the highest-quality natural and organic foods to Jersey City.” -Ted Kwong, Northeast Regional PR Coordinator
So, it looks like, though this particular Jersey City Whole Foods deal is dead, perhaps another location will eventually open.