The rumors abound in Columbia about Whole Foods moving into the former Rouse office building, now Howard Hughes Corp., located downtown. However, the company has made no definitive plans to do so, according to Whole Foods spokesperson Defausha Hampton.
“We don’t have any firm plans to open a store in Columbia, MD,” wrote Hampton in an email on Monday, “But we are always seeking new locations.”
Hampton said that new store locations are announced four times per year, during Whole Foods’ quarterly earnings calls with investors. The last earnings call took place on Feb. 8. During that call, Whole Foods announced they plan on opening between 24 and 27 new stores in fiscal 2012 and 28 to 32 new stores in fiscal 2013, but made no mention of Columbia. The next conference call will likely take place in early May, according to their past history.
Despite not having definitive plans to move in, the Howard Hughes Corporation held an event at the former Rouse Company Headquarters on Feb. 28 where residents that came out were given flowers, coffee, granola and other small goods to mingle in front of the building, according to a wordbones.com blog post authored by Dennis Lane. The post claimed Whole Foods CEO John Mackey was scheduled to do a drive-by, so HHC wanted to make the building look good for him.
Hampton didn't respond to a question Monday on whether Mackey drove by the Howard Hughes building Feb. 28.
John DeWolf, senior vice president of Howard Hughes, told the Howard County Times the event was an attempt to show other uses for the building than an office use.
"All of this remains 'hypothetical' and 'prospective' at this point," he told the Times. "And, we may do more experimenting in the near future. Hopefully, soon we can announce with great certainty some results from all this effort."
Over at Sarah Says, blogger Sarah Husain commended Whole Foods for contemplating moving into the former Rouse headquarters, a building designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry that has been underutilized for years. She said the new development of Town Center will give the area an urban feel, like many of the company's other locations.
“So is Whole Foods interested in a similar approach here in Columbia?” wrote Husain, “Locating at the Rouse building would position them as an active participant in the revitalization of our downtown. We’ll see!”
Weigh in below: Do you think Whole Foods should locate to downtown Columbia?