Madison (WKOW) -- Another big casualty of the faltering economy : Whole Foods has pulled out of a major development on Madison's west side.
Spokespersons for Whole Foods and Chicago-based developer Joseph Freed and Associates, cited worsening economic conditions for Whole Foods' withdrawal from a planned project next to the Hilldale Mall shopping center that was to have included the grocery store as the anchor component of a development with a hotel and retail and office space on seven acres.
A Whole Foods spokesperson said Whole Food's existing store on University Avenue would remain.
Madison mayoral aide Mario Mendoza told 27 News representatives of the developer have not abandoned plans to develop the land. "They tell us they are still planning to start construction on the site in 2009. Now what they need to do is look at other possible users, to whom they've already been talking." Mendoza said he did not know the businesses being considered as a replacement for Whole Foods.
Some demolition has already occured on the site, leaving large mounds of earth, with perimeter fencing cordoning off the undeveloped land. Krisann Miehe lives in a condominium tower next to the proposed development and told 27 News while there's disappointment the grocery store is out and the project is stalled, there's confidence something good will be built. "I just think that's prime real estate. I can't imagine they're not going to be able to do something with it. It's just the flat economy now."
The owner of a soon-to-be opened health club in the condominium tower next door told 27 News his business plan banked on the arrival of Whole Foods.
"We work together, Whole Foods and health," said Athletic Club of Madison owner Todd Bickels. "I'm pretty disappointed that they're not coming in."
While there is hope the developer will ultimately turn the land into something productive, even before Whole Food's pull out, the project's design changed during the planning process and the project was delayed several times.
City officials said if there's no plan to build on the site by next spring, they will expect the developer to fill the construction holes, and make the site less of an eyesore.