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Last Thursday night, Whole Foods officials presented their plan for their first Brooklyn store in front of Community Board 6. It's a bit of a miracle the company even got this far, given the number of false starts since Whole Foods announced its intention to open in Gowanus back in 2004. Now that the store is really, truly, definitively going to happen, Whole Foods needed CB6 to approve its proposal for a 56,000-square-foot space. The spot was only zoned for 10,000 square feet of retail, so that's a pretty significant jump.
According to Pardon Me for Asking, Whole Foods justified their request for a zoning variance by pointing out that they're facing "financial hardship" at the site. Gowanus is famously polluted, and Whole Foods is going to have to sell a lot of goji berries and recycled paper towels to be able to afford the cleanup. Reports PMFA:
This led one community member to ask what made Whole Foods buy the land next to the polluted canal in the first place. An awkward silence from the WF suits followed. Finally, one of the representatives meekly answered: "The land was bought before I joined the company."Points for honesty, right? In the end, Whole Foods impressed the community board enough to win its approval for the variance. Board members did, however, urge the company to beef up its traffic study, redesign the building to be more pedestrian friendly, and close at 10pm instead of midnight. That last request seems a bit misplaced—wouldn't it make the neighborhood safer to have a late-night grocery store?—but it wouldn't be a community board meeting without somebody asking a potential business to close early.
· Brooklyn's First Whole Foods: It's Really Happening! [Racked NY]
· Gowanus Whole Foods: At Last Night's CB6 Land Use Committee Meeting [PMFA]