Three locations express individuality

[caption id="attachment_28007" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Front of the Coddingtown store in Santa Rosa (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_28008" align="alignright" width="150" caption="Coddingtown store hot foods bar showing the clerestory (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

NORTH BAY -- Whole Foods Market takes a location-specific approach to design and product selection, reflected in the farmer's market, train depot and craft-brew pub features of three new North Bay locations this year.

The Austin, Texas-based chain of natural foods grocery stores studies what a community wants and existing architecture and culture in designing a store, according to R. Adam Smith, executive coordinator of design and construction for Northern California and Reno.

“We don’t build a cookie-cutter store,” he said. “It has proven helpful in getting design approval in some cases. In some cases, it has the potential to make it more difficult.”

[caption id="attachment_28006" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="The Coddingtown store's Tap Room (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

Such an approach may please local planning commissions and elected officials, but store elements such as full-scale restaurant kitchens and bakeries could be new elements for plan checkers and health inspectors. Examples include a full-size bakery unusually located in the middle of the sales floor near the entrance of the Novato store and a rough-framed craft brew pub on the floor of the Coddingtown store in Santa Rosa.

[caption id="attachment_28009" align="alignright" width="150" caption="A selection of prepared foods in the Coddingtown store (click to enlarge)"][/caption]

Another curve ball can be design changes late in the design process, which Mr. Smith likes to add as close to the opening date as possible because of rapid changes in the retail environment. In recent years, the company has been hiring a "store advocate" in a target community to gather local consumer feedback that is incorporated into the design before construction begins, according to Mr. Smith.

Publicly traded Whole Foods is No. 284 on the Fortune 500 list of companies with $9 billion in sales in fiscal 2010. Stores open a year had average sales of $642 a square foot at the end of the fiscal fourth quarter.

Coddingtown, Santa Rosa390 Coddingtown Mall, Santa Rosa

Property owners: Codding Enterprises, Rohnert Park, and Simon Property Group, Chicago

Description: Renovation of a former Ralphs grocery store space in a regional shopping mall into a 50,000-square-foot store with an interior craft beer pub

Completion: September 2010

Contractors: general -- Sutti & Associates, Burlingame; millwork -- Wood Shanti Cooperative, San Francisco

Architecture and design: construction documents -- Field Paoli, San Francisco; structure -- Studio Gee Architects; interiors -- CDS, Tualatin, Ore.

Engineering: mechanical, electrical and plumbing -- DC Engineering, Meridian, Idaho; structural -- KPW, Oakland

The most recent Whole Foods store to open in the North Bay is a 50,000-square-foot co-anchor for the Coddingtown regional shopping mall in west Santa Rosa. Mall owners Codding Enterprises and Simon Property Group had the shell of the former Ralphs grocery store space overhauled and expanded to Whole Foods' specifications a year and a half before tenant improvements started in February of this year. The store opened Sept. 22.

Whole Foods signed the Coddingtown lease among a number of others five years ago because of high demand for retail space at the time, but a second Santa Rosa store took lower priority in the grocer's schedule of opening only three to six stores a year in Northern California, according to Mr. Smith.

A unique feature of the new store is the Tap Room freestanding craft brew pub. Sourcing from a 150-mile radius, Wood Shanti Cooperative found reclaimed North Coast redwood for the framing and used white oak from a grove threatening homes to make the bar, tables and chairs. The pub was added to the project this past summer based on community input, according to Mr. Smith.

"We intended it to be a one-off specific to this location because of the proximity to greater brewers, but we're considering expanding it to other locations," he said. An outdoor beer garden and picnic area is being designed for a store in Folsom.

Whole Foods has been focusing heavily on energy conservation in new stores. In addition to two large skylights added to the building, the new store introduces enclosed refrigerated dairy cases to the Whole Foods chain, potentially saving 75 percent of the energy used in traditional open cases. Also new is low-power LED lighting for the refrigerated cases.

Millworks, NovatoMillworks, 790 De Long Ave., Novato

Property owner: Downtown Novato Investors, a partnership between San Francisco-based Pacific Coast Capital Partners and Signature Properties of Pleasanton

Description: Six-story, mixed-use development on nearly three acres with 124 residences ranging in size from 709-square-foot one-bedroom flats to 1,945-square-foot three-bedroom and den townhomes in a four-story structure around and above a 39,000-square-foot street-level Whole Foods Market store

Completion: store – April 2010

Contractors: general – Signature Properties; electrical – Royal Electric, Sacramento; plumbing – CJS Plumbing; framing – Etter and Sons Construction, Pleasanton; concrete – RJS & Associates, Hayward

Architecture: structure – HKIT Architects, Oakland; landscape – Van Dorn Abed Landscape Architects, San Francisco

Engineering: civil – CSW Stuber/Stroeh, Novato; structural – LS Mason & Associates, Lafayette

Lender: Wells Fargo Bank

Cost (not including Whole Foods tenant improvements): $80 million

Tenant-improvement contractors: general -- Construction Management & Builders, Lynnfield, Mass.; Cupertino Electric, San Jose; Karuza Plumbing, Santa Rosa; CA Mechanical, Hayward

TI design: interior architecture -- Field Paoli, San Francisco; mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineering -- CB Engineers, San Francisco; refrigeration -- Hussmann, Chino; EMS -- Key Refrigeration, Livermore

Residents of Novato campaigned hard for a store, and one was approved in 2006 as the anchor of a mixed-use project called Millworks, which has 124 residents atop a 39,000-square-foot store. The residences opened in spring 2009 and the store on April 22 of this year.

Being part of a mixed-use project is not typical for the grocer as was having the store partly underground for parking garage access, according to Mr. Smith.

"We worked with the natural light we had on the De Long side of the building," he said.

To fit with the railroad theme of the adjacent historic train depot, Mr. Smith picked two ocean shipping containers to be salvaged from the Port of Oakland to use in the bulk-foods department. The containers stacked on top of each other and reworked then attached to the newly poured building slab at the beginning of construction.

Mill Valley

The first Whole Foods store in Mill Valley opened in 1991 in 14,000 square feet and was one of the first stores in the chain at the time. The company now has 302 stores.

“It’s a very busy, high-volume store with a very small footprint,” Mr. Smith said. “By building a larger-format store in Mill Valley we could offer the product mix we have in larger stores. It makes the original Mill Valley store a nicer place to shop by taking the pressure off in volume.”

731 E. Blithedale Blvd., Mill Valley

Description: Renovation of a 29,000-square-foot vacant Albertsons store into a prototypical farmer's market-style Whole Foods store

Completion: May 2010

Contractors: general -- CM&B, Lynnfield, Maine; Karuza Plumbing, Santa Rosa; Cupertino Electric, San Jose; Daley’s Drywall and Taping, Campbell; site work -- George Young & Sons Construction, Sebastopol; All Air Mechanical Contractors, South San Francisco

Architecture and design: structure -- Studio Gee Architects of Austin, Texas; construction documents and engineering -- Harriman Architects and Engineers, Auburn, Maine; interiors -- Schorleaf, Austin, Texas

Engineering: mechanical and electrical -- Harriman; civil -- DK Consulting, Walnut Creek; structural -- KPW, Oakland

Rather than a repeat of the existing store in the 14,000-resident city, the grocer took a local-products approach to the 29,000-square-foot store at 731 E. Blithedale Ave.

The store has more than 1,000 fruits, vegetables and packaged goods items from Northern California companies, including several hundred from Marin County. Store design was tailored to fit a farmer’s market-like look with exposed wall and ceiling framing, roll-up glass doors and perimeter produce bins.