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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Amid Market Basket feud, Nashua Whole Foods opening nears; Turnpike Plaza sold for $27M

NASHUA – With all eyes on the Market Basket stalemate, one of the region’s longest-awaited grocery stores is already driving up real estate prices.

The imminent arrival of New Hampshire’s first Whole Foods market, which opens Aug. 19, has boosted the appeal of the Turnpike Plaza, which recently sold for a relatively high price of $27 million. The plaza sold to Chop Acquisition, a Boston-based LLC, whose principal agent is attorney Paul Stanzler. ...

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NASHUA – With all eyes on the Market Basket stalemate, one of the region’s longest-awaited grocery stores is already driving up real estate prices.

The imminent arrival of New Hampshire’s first Whole Foods market, which opens Aug. 19, has boosted the appeal of the Turnpike Plaza, which recently sold for a relatively high price of $27 million. The plaza sold to Chop Acquisition, a Boston-based LLC, whose principal agent is attorney Paul Stanzler.

“The first Whole Foods made it a very appealing prospect, and Nashua is a very healthy economic market,” Stanzler said. Chop Aquisition is owned by a Boston-area family that owns other shopping centers roughly equivalent in size to the 131,000-square-foot Turnpike Plaza, although none of them are in New Hampshire.

“It was a pretty healthy price … although it’s not far off from market,” Stanzler said of the sale price, almost $205 a square foot. “It’s a good location, with good tenants. It should do well.”

Construction continues at the store, although the exterior is nearly finished: workers on Wednesday were painting final window trim. Anticipation for the opening is high: As a Telegraph staff member was taking pictures, three different cars driving to or from the other stores in the plaza stopped to ask when the Whole Foods would open.

Further west on Amherst Street, Market Basket workers continued to picket in front of the store’s mostly empty parking lot over the company’s ownership. Customers have largely been shopping elsewhere, either to support employee calls for a boycott or because some Market Basket shelves are empty, but Whole Foods has no plans to move up the opening of this store, said Whole Foods team leader Philip DeVito.

The Whole Foods store took over the location of a former Market Basket that was vacated after an upgraded store opened at Somerset Plaza, a mile west on Route 101A.

The other stores in Turnpike Plaza – Bob’s, Staples and A.C. Moore – have remained open throughout construction, which started in the winter.

A stand-alone Papa Gino’s was torn down in January after 33 years in the plaza to make room for more parking. It will move to a new plaza being built across Amherst Street, in place of the former Nashua Motor Sports.

Stanzler said Chop Acquisition plans no major changes to the 4-decade-old Turnpike Plaza other than to “spruce it up a little bit, perhaps do some new signage,” but changes will be coming to the entryway and nearby portions of Route 101A.

As The Telegraph has reported, the city is working with Turnpike Plaza and the new plaza coming on the south side of the highway to make improvements to traffic flow in the heavily traveled area at Exit 7 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

Stanzler said Whole Foods and the other tenants have “long-term leases” and that the plaza should be stable. He said Chop Acquisition is not looking at any other properties in New Hampshire at this time.

Whole Foods, based in Austin, Texas, is one of the fastest-growing grocery chains in the country, based on its reputation for organic, locally grown and other high-end foods.

Whole Foods plans to open its second New Hampshire location in downtown Portsmouth in 2016. The New Hampshire Union Leader reported Wednesday, that it will open a store in Bedford as well. Its nearest store to Nashua is in Andover, Mass.

Turnpike Plaza opened in 1965, anchored by First National Foods and Rich’s, a department store. First National was replaced by Market Basket around 1981. Rich’s went under in 1996. The plaza was upgraded, and the current lineup had moved in by 1998.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).