Gowanus Whole Foods Officially Off the Ground

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Pretty soon Brooklyn will join the Upper West Side in looking like a sterile, predictable American suburb.

That's to say that Gowanus is def going to have a Whole Foods very soon -- as early as 2013 -- as a city board today gave the grocery conglomerate a key zoning variance, according to the New York Times.

Now, the grocery simply has to apply for building permits to start construction on the 52,000-square-foot store, which will be at the crossing of Third Avenue and Third Street, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The two-story behemoth will be the company's first store in Brooklyn (it now has six locations in Manhattan), and will feature a rooftop greenhouse.

People who are pro-Whole Foods say that the store can boost the area's ailing economy, which has long been stuck with the stigma of being a stone's throw from a Superfund site.

Some Gowanus residents worry that the store will hurt small retailers and artists, the Journal notes, but the opening will provide 350 jobs.

Gowanus Institute, a public interest group dedicated to planning and developing the district, is pretty pissed, posting this response on its website:

"Gowanus Institute is disappointed by NYC Board of Standards and Appeals' decision to grant Whole Foods Market the variance to build a large, suburban-style retail food market in an area that has been a haven for well-paying manufacturing jobs protected by New York City's zoning law and economic policies.

Gowanus Institute maintains that WFM did not meet the five, legally-required findings for a variance to be granted. It is clear that if built, the retail development will indeed forever alter the essential manufacturing character of the Gowanus neighborhood. Additionally, WFM did not establish that an as-of-right manufacturing alternative could not be built. If BSA could so easily determine that manufacturing is not viable at the WFM site, then the standard for a variance must be so low that the developer of any site could carry out similar plans by pursuing the same process--one that not only completely undermines zoning law, but more importantly eliminates the opportunity for the public to participate in decisions about development in their communities.

Gowanus Institute shares the concern of other organizations and of many community members that the practice of granting variances and special permits to build residential buildings, hotels or large retail stores in manufacturing zones without considering the high probability of displacement in its manufacturing districts threatens low-income individuals who need affordable places to live and work and businesses that need the protection manufacturing zones in order to survive. "

But there's another (far less-important) thing to worry about: Will the Brooklyn store's steam tables be just as sucky as other WFs?

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.


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