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Whole Foods coming

IND Monthly
by Leslie Turk

It's about time: After years of scouting locations, rampant speculation about where it would land ­- and even one false story about its intentions to open in a spot that had many local real estate professionals scratching their heads ­- Whole Foods Market is coming to Lafayette.

Unlike what happened in the spring of 2011, when city leaders were misled by a Houston real estate official and prematurely announced that Whole Foods planned to go into the old Kmart on Ambassador Caffery Parkway, the word is coming straight from the grocery store chain.

In an earnings call Wednesday, Whole Foods Market confirmed it has signed a lease for a store in Lafayette that will likely open in late 2014. The Lafayette Whole Foods is part of a development of Saloom family property at Settlers Trace Boulevard and Ambassador Caffery Parkway, a tract of land separated from the Super Target center by Settlers Trace. It is unclear whether the family has sold the property or is involved in the development of this prime real estate, which sat for years classified as agricultural land.

Whole Foods spokeswoman Kristina Bradford, who is based in the New Orleans area, said the new store will anchor the development, an approximately 95,000-square-foot center called Ambassador Crossing. Bradford had no additional information on the development itself.

Whole Foods Market, which calls itself the "world's leader in natural and organic foods," was founded in Austin, Texas, in 1980. It now has more than 340 stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

The Lafayette store will be 36,200 square feet, Bradford says, which is sightly larger than the chain's Magazine Street location in New Orleans but smaller than its Baton Rouge and Metairie stores.

It will represent significant competition for The Fresh Market, located on Kaliste Saloom Road in River Ranch.

In the earnings call, the publicly traded company also confirmed it would add a second location later this year in New Orleans, a 25,000-square-foot store at Broad and Bienville streets. It will be the smallest Whole Foods in the state.

Once the two new stores open, Whole Foods will have five Louisiana locations.