Whole Foods Market is coming to East River and North Craycroft roads, its third and largest Tucson location.
Expected to open next fall, the market in River Center on the intersection's northeast corner will fill a supermarket space that's sat vacant about nine years.
Coming with it will be a complete remodeling of River Center's facade, said Andy Seleznov, director of leasing for Larsen Baker, the shopping center's managing operator.
He said landlord River Center Canada LLC will spend millions on the remodeling, but he didn't have a specific figure.
The one-story Whole Foods will cover about 35,000 square feet.
The signing of the lease comes after several near-misses for filling that space over the years. It used to house an ABCO and then a Garrett's IGA. Challenges ranged from the down economy to finding the right mix for tenants, Seleznov said. Most notably, in 2008 Walmart dropped plans to open a Neighborhood Market at River Center.
Whole Foods' plan is to get the River-Craycroft store opened before it temporarily closes its store at Casas Adobes Plaza to rebuild it, Seleznov said Thursday. A Whole Foods spokeswoman couldn't be reached to confirm that timetable for the northwest-side store.
Plans for nw-side store, too
Casas Adobes' co-owner, Richard Shenkarow, said ground will be broken in early fall 2012 for the new Whole Foods on his property.
The existing Whole Foods Market at Casas Adobes, at North Oracle and West Ina roads, will be torn down and rebuilt for an opening in late spring 2013, he said.
Architects with the local firm a23 Studios have completed renderings of the design, which will not only double the store's size, to 32,000 square feet, but also add a second floor with a mezzanine and offices for Whole Foods.
Shenkarow said he's proud that the design is "staying true to the property and to the architectural integrity" of Casas Adobes, which was created in the 1940s by a protégé of renowned Tucson architect Josias Joesler.
Jose Ceja, principal of a23 Studios, said Casas Adobes has eclectic designs. "We took a lot of those components and generated this design," including arches and "very detailed brick parapets," he said.
"It's really blended into the property," Ceja said.
Adobe of burnt and exposed varieties will be used, and many of the fixtures, such as mission-style roof tiles, will be hand-made in Mexico, Shenkarow said.
The new market will include a large, semi-enclosed outdoor eating area.
In addition, the design will include another main entrance to Casas Adobes, this one on its west side, including a new stoplight Pima County approved for Ina Road at North Via Ponte, he said.
That will improve traffic circulation and ease of parking access at the plaza, Shenkarow said. "We won't lose any tenants," he added.
Whole Foods' other Tucson store is at 3360 E. Speedway.