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Cafritz Whole Foods to Serve More than Just Riverdale Park

Compared to Shoppers, a grocery chain with a store 3 miles north on Route 1, the cost for a basket of products like milk, bread, eggs and chicken breasts, among others, is 35 percent more expensive.

By Nicholas Duchesne

Next year’s slated development of the Cafritz property will prominently feature a Whole Foods Market among the planned residential and retail space. When the grocery store opens, however, it will better serve the larger metropolitan community than the town of Riverdale Park itself. 

“Whole Foods is a big piece of it,” said Alan Thompson, the councilman for Ward 2 in Riverdale Park. Thompson said that the Cafritz’s previous plan to develop the 37-acres along the eastern side of Route 1 fell apart back in 2007 when Whole Foods wouldn’t commit. The development got back on track once the store teamed up with the developers and “a fully executed lease was signed,” said Chip Reed, the Cafritz’s attorney. 

Since the first Whole Foods Market opened in 1980 in Austin, Texas, the company has expanded around the country. They currently operate over 300 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, with eight stores in Maryland.

The store is known for both its high quality products and its subsequently high price tags. Compared to Shoppers, a grocery chain with a store 3 miles north on Route 1, the cost for a basket of products like milk, bread, eggs and chicken breasts, among others, is 35 percent more expensive.

“The prices are a little higher. It’s a tradeoff for better quality fruits and vegetables, but I think it’s worth it,” said Diann Howland of University Park.

Outside of two stores in Baltimore City, the other six locations are in high-income areas like Bethesda, Friendship Heights, and Annapolis.

There’s a Whole Foods in Rockville, where the median family income is $104,913. Another is in Gaithersburg, which has an income level of $93,403. Of all the locations outside Baltimore none have median family incomes below $75,000.

In Riverdale Park, the median income is only $53,594, well below the Maryland state average of $85,000. For many families in the town, a 35 percent price hike in groceries is not a viable option. “It doesn’t serve the majority of current residents. People don’t make enough money to shop there,” said Joe Kelly, a Riverdale Park resident.

While Riverdale Park itself may not have the customer base to support a Whole Foods, the area definitely does. The development’s location along Route 1 means that tens of thousands of commuters going to and from Washington D.C. will pass by everyday. “We expect a lot of it to be pass through traffic,” said Thompson. 

The development will also come with its own customer base built in. According to Reed, there are plans for 995 residential units, including 126 townhouses and condominiums. Students at the University of Maryland also represent a potential market. “A lot of students start to care about eating healthy,” said Hallie Lease, a sophomore at Maryland. “If they don’t have to pay themselves, Whole Foods would be awesome.”

The community is split on whether or not development is a good idea. The Riverdale Park town council is fully on board, having approved the rezoning of the Cafritz site from single-family homes to mixed use with a unanimous 5-0 vote. “It will really help with town finances,” said Thompson. “The tax base will increase by a good bit.”

While the Cafritzes will pay for the development of the property and construction costs, they are currently working out a deal with the town on the construction of a bridge over the railroad tracks at the eastern edge of the property. According to a letter written by councilman Jonathan Ebbeler, the developers would pay 50 percent of the bridge costs, up to a maximum of $5 million.

Kelly thinks that that is a bad deal for the town. “It is a poorly worded and poorly negotiated condition,” he said. “The developer has a limited liability in it. They don’t have to spend a penny over $5 million. The taxpayers have unlimited liability.

Funds to pay for the town’s portion would come from Tax Increment Financing, or a TIF. According to Ebbeler’s letter, “A TIF uses future tax revenue generated within the borders of the development to pay for current capital improvements,” like the bridge.

The specifics of the TIF have yet to be worked out according to Reed, but when they are it will be determined who is on the hook for the money if this future revenue fails to materialize as expected.

With Whole Foods’ popularity in the area, the threat of the development failing is reduced. Either way, many residents of Riverdale Park are preparing to deal with years of construction and an increase in traffic, all for a grocery store and development that many of them will never use.

Peggy Anne December 07, 2012 at 07:41 PM
It saddens me to see the old Calvert Homes turned into a cluster buck. I like the trees ! I don't like mobs of people. The concentrated housing turns many people into nasty unhappy rats. I used to live in Riverdale in 1953-54. It was fun. I moved out to Arizona, but I have a fondness for the old Riverdale. The good vibes came with me. I'm always trying to hunt up images of old shops, etc. I thought it would always be around as "home town."
Nicholas Duchesne December 07, 2012 at 09:46 PM
Thanks for the responses everybody. I still think that the Whole Foods will be successful in the Cafritz location. There's enough money in nearby areas, enough college kids at Maryland who would rather go to Whole Foods then Shoppers, and enough through traffic in general going to and from DC to support the store. It's just that the target market of the store doesn't overlap very much with residents in Riverdale Park.
Adelphi Sky December 09, 2012 at 04:45 AM
What I like about Whole Foods and what I think we need in this area is a full service grocery store. The only store I'm aware of that actually has a worthwhile butcher shop with quality meats, a cheese section, a hot/cold food section worth browsing, etc. I'm sorry, but Shoppers, Giant, and Safeway don't cut it anymore and I'm tired of driving to Montgomery and Howard counties for the experience. As far as the Wegman's in Woodmore, produce quality and empty shelves is not an indication of how well a grocery store is doing. Look at all the other crappy grocery stores that seem to NEVER go away even though they sell sub par produce and rarely keep things in stock? I go to the Wegman's in Howard County and have found that they too lack some good produce and have a few things out of stock. Perhaps that's an indication of their brand?
Peggy Anne December 09, 2012 at 03:14 PM
If Whole Foods prices are a bit high, I go with a shopping buddy and we split the item in $ half share. That way, we can get what we want. Whole Foods has a lot of good things. Freshly juiced raw drinks, live almond butter from a machine, and a lot of vegan foods. They have the food bar. I have to shudder when I go into a convenience store and see what they call "food." In some ways, the other grocery stores have too much to choose from. I wish the good stuff was more affordable to those who don't have a lot of $ but are eager to eat better. I cringe when I glance into the "average" grocery carts in mainstream grocers. Breaded, high sugar, soda, chips, bloody animal chunks, cow milk, 100 cookies for 99 cents. Alcohol, frozen cakes full of garish dyes. Sad. I will shop Whole Foods for some things. They are wise to give out samples. People need to try the healthy versions.
R. J. December 11, 2012 at 05:00 PM
Your information about Wegmans is completely false. I shop there regularly.

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