GOWANUS — Construction has started on Brooklyn's first Whole Foods and the store is expected to open next summer, a store spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
"It's officially underway," said Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra of work on the future Whole Foods at Third Street and Third Avenue in Gowanus. The 52,000-square-foot store is slated to open in the summer of 2013, depending on how winter weather affects the pace of construction, Sinatra said.
Locals have been speculating about progress at the site since Whole Foods won city approval for the store in February 2012 after an eight-year odyssey that divided the community.
Construction trailers appeared in the spring, but little work has been visible. On Wednesday, the fenced construction lot seemed quiet, but a concrete worker at the site said his company would be laying the store's foundations after completing prep work such as trimming overgrown grass on the Third Street sidewalk.
Texas-based Whole Foods is already working to lay foundations of goodwill in the neighborhood, which was split on whether the large store would help or hurt industrial Gowanus.
The upscale store, which cultivates a socially responsible image, recently donated to a neighborhood event hosted by the Gowanus Alliance and the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. The groups used the $250 gift card to buy snacks and drinks at the Bowery Whole Foods to feed volunteers at a May clean-up of Ennis Playground on Third Avenue between 11th and 12th streets, said Alliance director Paul Basile.
"They show a real desire to be part of the community," Basile said. "Whole Foods has a history of that wherever they've gone. We'll have to wait and see if it continues."
He added, "We're hoping they'll come through with the jobs they promised, the garden they promised, and all the other things they said they would do for the community. We're going to keep an eye on them and hopefully they'll do what they said they were going to do."
Building the Whole Foods store is expected to create roughly 300 temporary construction jobs, and the store plans to hire 350 employees when it opens, Sinatra said. The store is expected to have a 20,000-square-foot rooftop greenhouse for growing produce, Curbed reported.
The new store will be built alongside a landmarked building on the corner of Third Street and Third Avenue. Known as the Coignet building, it was built in 1872 and is thought to be one of the first concrete structures in New York, according to the Wall Street Journal.