Volume 73, Number 3 | May 19 - 25, 2004

Whole Foods, Sam’s Wines coming to E. Houston?

There have recently been reports that a deal is in the works for a mega-Whole Foods store and/or a Sam’s Wines & Spirits store at the Avalon Chrystie Place development being built on E. Houston St. at the Bowery.

Fred Harris, senior vice president of Avalon Bay Communities, said that Whole Foods and Sam’s Wines & Spirits are among a “handful — five or 10” potential commercial tenants being considered for the 80,000 sq. ft. of commercial space on the first and second floors of the new mixed-use building, which will also have 360 apartments, including affordable apartments, and a community center.

“We have talked to them, absolutely. They are contenders,” Harris said. “No agreement is in place.”

Harris said it’s likely that there would be more than one tenant, probably “a few,” but not “a mall” with many little stores. He said the site’s zoning puts restrictions on stores over 10,000 sq. ft., limiting these to stores providing “neighborhood services,” such as grocery, hardware, drug and liquor stores. Large department stores selling clothes aren’t considered “neighborhood” uses, and so are not allowed over 10,000 sq. ft. A Home Depot had been in the running earlier, but was dropped after community opposition, he said.

Sam’s Wines had recently been trying to open a 30,000-sq.-ft. liquor store on W. 42nd St. The Post recently reported that an 87,000-sq.-ft. Whole Foods was planned at Avalon Chrystie Pl., and the story was picked up by some Lower East Side blogs.

The layout of the space — two large floor plates — lends itself to larger stores, Harris said.

Harris said that in about two weeks, they should have something to report on who the tenants will be.

“My prediction is that the neighborhood will be happy with the choices,” said Harris.

Sam’s would need a liquor license to operate, and as part of the liquor-license application process is required to have their store proposal considered by Community Board 3; the issue was on the board’s Housing Committee meeting agenda last Thursday. Frank Giresi, who owns Elizabeth & Vine, a liquor store on Elizabeth St., came to testify against Sam’s, saying it would put him and eight other nearby mom-and-pop liquor stores out of business.

However, Harris told The Villager, “What store can you imagine that there wouldn’t be a mom-and-pop store affected by it? If there’s a grocery store, there’s little mom-and-pop grocery stores [that would be affected.] We’re building rental apartments — we’re competing with other rental buildings.”


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