The transformation of the former Boston Herald property in the South End into a high-end mixed-use development takes a significant step forward this week, with a new Whole Foods set to open there Friday morning.
The gleaming 50,000-square-foot supermarket is the anchor retail tenant of Newton-based National Development’s $200 million Ink Block project, the largest of several mixed-use projects under construction in that part of the neighborhood.
The Whole Foods store, on the ground floor of the “2 Ink” building, will be the first section to open, followed by apartments on the upper floors and condominium units in a nearby building.
“One of things that was really missing from the South End was a full-service grocery store,” said Ted Tye, a managing partner at National Development. “Whole Foods is really the centerpiece of our project.”
The store’s decor pays homage to the property’s print journalism history. Old typesetting trays adornthe walls, and the original silver Boston Herald sign, for years a landmark to motorists passing by on the expressway, hangs over a long cooler filled with craft beer. (Yes, this Whole Foods sells alcohol). Historic editions of the Herald and its predecessor newspapers serve as the backdrop to aisle signs — although it’s unlikely that organic kombucha ever graced the front page of the mud-slinging, conservative-leaning tabloid.
While much of the store will be familiar to veteran Whole Foods shoppers, it will sport a few unusual touches, such as a frozen yogurt window, a fresh juice bar, and a Cape Cod-style seafood “shack” that fries fish and steams mussels to order.
And instead of a small barista station, this Whole Foods has a full-scale Allegro Coffee Co. shop featuring a computerized Mod Bar brewing system. There’s also a vending machine that dispenses bicycle parts and, naturally, a refurbished vintage cigarette machine stocked with pack-size original artwork.
But the most distinctive amenity is a glass-walled “urban day spa” that’s run by another Austin, Texas-based outfit, milk + honey. There, shoppers can enjoy a hot shave or pedicure in a cozy chair before stepping out to peruse the pickle bar or the extensive wine section in a more relaxed state of mind.
Instead of a traditional ribbon-cutting, the 9:45 a.m. opening on Friday will feature a symbolic bread-breaking ceremony. Mayor Martin J. Walsh and other officials are expected to attend.
The South End store is the company’s sixth in Boston and the 30th in Massachusetts. It’s also the city’s largest Whole Foods and will employ about 210 full- and part-time workers.
Store officials said they hope to attract customers from the South End, the Back Bay, and South Boston, where residents have long complained of a lack of grocery options. A parking lot can accommodate 110 cars.
Tye said tenants will begin moving into some of the 315 apartments above Whole Foods this month. They will enjoy direct access to the store via an elevator, one of the many perks included in monthly rents that start at about $2,600 for a studio unit.
Five other retailers, including several restaurants, have signed leases at Ink Block, Tye revealed. He declined to name the companies. National Development is also close to announcing plans for two additional buildings on the Herald site, he said.
The Herald relocated to Fargo Street in South Boston in early 2012, outsourcing its printing operations to The Boston Globe’s Morrissey Boulevard presses.
National Development broke ground on the project in 2013. The Herald’s publisher, Patrick Purcell, is a minority investor in Ink Block.
Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.