A newly built mixed-use development near Boca Raton, Florida, will soon be home to a new Whole Foods Market, and it appears to be the first case of a Whole Foods grocery store replacing one of the dozen-plus Amazon Fresh grocery stores that were never opened.
Meanwhile, in the nearby metro Miami city of Sunrise, Amazon is being sued by the landlord of a property where another Amazon Fresh was leased and never opened. At the beginning of 2023, Amazon attempted to terminate the lease at its unopened store at 12300 W. Sunrise Blvd., but the landlord, Flamingto Sunrise Investment, LLC, declined and is now suing for breach of contract.
Whole Foods, which is owned by Amazon, confirmed that it plans to open a new store at Uptown Boca, a shopping center and mixed-use development, but the company declined to respond to questions about whether the store would take the place of the Amazon Fresh that was slated for the development.
But according to published reports, the shopping center space slated for the Amazon Fresh store is the only retail space in the area large enough to accommodate a Whole Foods.
Amazon made headlines across the country this year after it built more than a dozen Amazon Fresh stores and never opened them, leaving shoppers, public officials and others wondering what exactly happened.
Schmier Property Group, which operates the Uptown Boca development, issued a press release that noted the new Whole Foods will “further distinguish Uptown Boca as a landmark destination in South Florida.”
“Announcing Whole Foods Market as our anchor grocery store is truly a home run for Uptown Boca and the entire west Boca community," it said. "Uptown Boca has quickly become the go-to shopping and dining destination in west Boca, and the addition of Whole Foods Market to our tenant roster will further solidify Uptown Boca as a cornerstone within the community.”
The Uptown Boca development, which was completed in 2020, includes a mix of retail and restaurants, including REI, Sephora, Chick-Fil-A and more.
Brian Schmier, of Schmier Property Group, could not be reached for comment, but the South Florida Sun Sentinel interviewed him in a story on July 17, in which he said the question of whether the new Whole Foods would take the place of the Amazon Fresh location was a “sensitive” issue.
Schmier told the newspaper that the space where the Amazon Fresh was to go in was “the only major retail space on the sitemap,” which suggests it’s the only retail space large enough to fit a Whole Foods.
Meanwhile, Amazon continues to face criticism and now lawsuits over its other Amazon Fresh locations that never opened. In May, the company began attempting to sublease at least half a dozen of the locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and two in Detroit.
Now, Flamingo Sunrise Investments is suing the retailer for $50,000 for its failure to pay rent on the Sunrise location. The company faces similar lawsuits over never-opened Amazon Fresh stores in Pennsylvania and Washington state.
The lawsuit, filed in Broward County Circuit Court, noted that on Jan. 31, Amazon sent a notice to Flamingo in an effort to terminate the 10-year lease. About a week later, Flamingo rejected the request and advised Amazon that it was in default of the lease.
On June 20, the Flamingo filed the lawsuit for damages in excess of $50,000, plus interest and attorneys’ fees.
The lawsuits and store changes come at a time when Amazon is restructuring its vision for the fledgling chain of high-tech grocery stores. It closed three of its stores in the U.K. in early July, and about a week ago, the company laid off hundreds of its U.S. workers at its 44 Amazon Fresh stores across the country.
“As a result, we’ve decided to evolve our in-store staffing and operations model to better serve our customers and teams," Amazon spokesperson Jessica Martin said in an email response to questions, following the layoffs. "We remain committed to our grocery business, and we’re working closely with affected employees to help them find new shifts or roles within Amazon.”