A New Orleans-based spokeswoman for Whole Foods says the organic grocer has not signed a letter of intent to locate at the site, as The Independent reported in a breaking news item Wednesday; and reading between the lines, I’d say it looks as though any potential deal is far from done.
“We’re always looking for new locations, but at this time Whole Foods Market has not signed a letter of intent to open a store in Lafayette,” says Kristina Bradford.
So how did the big mix-up happen? Local officials were misled by Dan Muniza, vice president for construction and facilities management for Houston-based firm Fidelis Realty Partners, according to Dee Stanley, Lafayette Consolidated Government’s chief administrative officer. Muniza, for reasons still unknown, approved both the press release city officials put out Wednesday afternoon and City-Parish President Joey Durel’s memo to council members about the proposed ordinance calling for the city to assume control of Ridge Road to help with access, Stanley says. Durel’s memo and release clearly state that Fidelis has a lease with Burlington Coat Factory and a letter of intent with Whole Foods, also noting: “A Fidelis representative has told us they expect formal lease approval from Whole Foods sometime this summer.”
“It was a premature statement from somebody at my office to say that there was [an LOI with Whole Foods],” acknowledges Fidelis Principal Lynn Davis. “Are we having discussions with them? Yes, that’s obvious because the city and the mayor and everybody has been trying to work with us to help us, but it was premature to say there was an LOI executed.”
Davis says Fidelis is purchasing the long-vacant Kmart site and working on redevelopment of it. “We’re buying that property. We’re talking to lots of tenants that would like to go into that property,” she says. “We intend to close sometime in June. We are under contract. We have gone hard on money, and we have done all of our due diligence.”
So where does the Whole Foods/Kmart deal stand today? Bradford wouldn’t — or couldn’t — say. “I don’t know if that site is one they are looking at, but I know that they are always looking for new locations, and they have not find that currently in the Lafayette market.”