Call it Hole Foods! Grocer will clean toxic site, but may not build store

Whole Foods needs a partner on Gowanus job

The proposed site of a Whole Foods store along the Gowanus Canal may remain nothing more than a hole, but at least it will be a decontaminated one.

State officials announced late last month that a clean-up of the toxic site at Third Avenue and Third Street will commence on Jan. 11 and is expected to take three months — though it is uncertain whether the organic (and some say overpriced) grocery store will ever be built.

“There hasn’t been any determination when — or if — we will open a store,” said Whole Foods spokesman Michael Sinatra. “We’re focused on the present, the clean-up of the property. Then we’ll take it from there and identify what we’ll do next.”

Since announcing its plans for its first Brooklyn location in 2006, Whole Foods has steadily backed away from building on the site in question. The latest evidence that Whole Foods thinks the site is spoiled came from the Department of Environmental Conservation, which noted that the clean-up was originally expected to be done in conjunction with construction of a new grocery store.

“The construction of the [Whole Foods] will not take place at this time,” said a letter from the state agency. “A soil cover will be installed at the site following remedial excavations.”

Now, the clean-up will proceed without any certainty as to what will be built on the property, which occupies the majority of the block bordering an arm of the malodorous canal.

The potential site has been the subject of much speculation in the last year. Last July, a Whole Foods spokeswoman told The Brooklyn Paper that the grocery store had no plans to build there, only to later insist that the company was still weighing its options.

The clean-up will be carried out as part of a state program that encourages developers to voluntarily decontaminate brownfields by doling out tax incentives.