BEDFORD — The long-abandoned Wayfarer Inn property, located at 121 South River Road, is one step closer to getting a new identity — specifically, a shopping center with a Whole Foods Market as its anchor store.
On Wednesday, the Austin, Tx.-based health food grocery chain sent out a press release announcing that it will open two new stores in its North Atlantic region through 2015, one being in Bedford.
The Bedford location will be a 40,000-square-foot store and is set to employ approximately 150 full- and part-time workers. The store is projected to open late 2015 and will be the second location in New Hampshire after Nashua, which is opening on Aug. 19. The chain is also opening a store in Portsmouth.
“We have been eager to respond to strong demand for stores in central Massachusetts and New Hampshire for a long time,” said Laura Derba, Whole Foods Market’s regional president, in the release. “Going from zero locations in New Hampshire to three in two years has been truly exciting for us.”
Public relations manager Heather McCready, who works at Whole Foods’ regional office in Cambridge, Mass., said on Friday that the choice to make the chain’s second New Hampshire location in Bedford was based on consumer demand.
“We always put stores basically where they’re requested,” McCready said.
“Specific areas of New Hampshire have been really vocal in requesting a store, so I would imagine that is what led to our seeking out a spot there in Bedford.”
McCready was unable to give a more specific opening date than the late 2015 projection in the press release.
“Obviously, we are still so, so early in this process,” she said. “We haven’t been in any sort of building or anything like that at this point, so I couldn’t even speculate more specific than that, because there’s so many variables.
McCready also said she was unaware of any pushback from Hannaford, which tried to fight the opening of Market Basket’s Bedford location at 539 Donald St. in 2013.
The town is also preparing for the changes to the Wayfarer property, specifically the entrance of Whole Foods. In an email on Thursday, Bedford planning director Rick Sawyer confirmed that the store was the proposed anchor business for the ongoing redevelopment project on the property.
“(The project) has been before the planning board conceptually a couple of times and is on the Aug. 11, 2014 agenda for introduction for final action,” Sawyer said. “I don’t expect the board to vote on the project on the 11th, but rather at their Sept. 8 meeting.”
The project file, which is available for public viewing at the planning office, contains a notice dated July 25, which confirmed that the property owner, Wayfarer HIR Realty, LLC, had requested a final approval for the subdivision of the 121 South River Road property into five separate lots for multi-use development, as well as a request for approval of a site plan for a 48,000-square-foot retail building.
The file also showed a mock-up of what the finished shopping center would look like, and includes a Whole Foods storefront.