TAMPA — With natural food competitors popping up like organic mushrooms, Whole Foods Market plans to move its N Dale Mabry store to a bigger and more high profile space in the recently announced Midtown Tampa project just south of Interstate 275.

With the move, announced Tuesday, the Whole Foods will grow from 32,000 to 48,000 square feet, the organic food retailer’s largest store in the Tampa Bay area.

The lease for new space at 1001 N Dale Mabry Highway also will make Whole Foods the first major tenant announced for Midtown Tampa.

The existing store is less than a mile away from Midtown Tampa, just north of I-275 at 1548 N Dale Mabry Highway.

There, it shares a busy, in-demand parking lot and garage with Target, Nordstrom Rack, Home Depot, PetSmart and HomeGoods, among others. In contrast, the Midtown project offers a highly visible site with easy access, Whole Foods Florida regional president Juan Núñez said in announcing the plan. The move comes as a growing number of organic grocery chains vie to win over customers throughout the bay area. Sprouts Farmers Market has stores both to the north and south of the new Whole Foods location, plus locations in Palm Harbor and Valrico. Tampa Bay’s first Lucky’s Market is slated to open this summer in St. Petersburg. Earth Fare stores are now open in Oldsmar and Seminole.

But those stores are smaller than the expanded Whole Foods planned for Midtown.

Nicholas Haines, chief executive officer of the project’s developer, the New York City-based Bromley Companies, called Whole Foods “integral to our vision of an entirely new district for Tampa.”

Midtown Tampa is planned to include more than 200,000 square feet of retail, entertainment, fitness and outdoor activities and first-to-market restaurants.

The project also will have 750,000 square feet of Class A office space, 400 multi-family residences and two boutique hotels.

Projected to open in the fall of 2020, the new Whole Foods Market will have a staff of about 200 full- and part-time employees. Workers at the current store will have a chance to transfer to the new store, the company said.

Tampa Bay Times