A 30,000 square foot Whole Foods grocery store is coming to the Inland Empire and is projected to open in the city of Upland some time in 2017, according to an executive from the L.A. development firm GPI, which has partnered to build the project.
The grocery store will anchor a soon-t0-be-built 42 acre residential and retail project that could include 400 single-family homes, said T.R. Gregory, a senior vice president with GPI. The development has been dubbed Sycamore Hills.
The market will be one of Whole Foods' more affordable stores, which goes by the name "365." The Whole Foods chain has come to be a coveted retailer in Southern California – some realtors consider it an indicator of a community on the rise, since the company's prices and products tend to attract more affluent, health-conscious shoppers.
Upland lies on the northwestern edge of San Bernardino County, right on the Los Angeles county border. The media income there between 2009-2013 was $62,667, according to the most recent Census data. The Inland Empire region lies east of Los Angeles, south of the San Bernardino Mountains, comprising both San Bernardino and Riverside counties. It's become known as a place where city dwellers can find an affordable home and more open space.
The only other Whole Foods store in the Inland Empire region is in Palm Desert, in eastern Riverside county. Economist Chris Thornberg, from the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting and Development, said the area is due for a development like this.
"The Inland Empire suffers from a bit of an image problem. A lot of folks look at it as kind of a blue-collar enclave for the greater Los Angeles economy. Nothing can be actually farther from the truth," he said. "This is a powerful and dynamic economy. It’s the third-fastest growing part of the state right now on a percentage basis. So, look, the Inland Empire is here, and it’s about time that some of these retailers began to realize that."
But local resident Andrew Ochoa, a low income worker, is worried that the grocery store is a sign that the area is changing and will attract more affluent home buyers.
"Then it’s just going to raise the prices up more. And people that don’t [have the means], they’re just going to end up having to move somewhere else," he said.
Ochoa said he worries that his family may have to eventually relocate further east, to somewhere closer to San Bernardino.
But Thornberg explained that when a Whole Foods chain comes to a city, it's typically because of the economics have already changed.
"This is an area that holds 4 million people. Many of those people are highly educated and highly paid. Some of those areas, particularly in the South West Riverside region, have average income levels higher than many parts of Orange County. What’s amazing to me is when you think about an economy that is, believe it or not, the same size as Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, that this is only the second Whole Foods being opened out there. More than anything else, I think this only reflects the growing realization that this is a powerful and dynamic economy."
Other Upland residents said they would be interested to try out the 365 market.
"Oh you bet... I like it," said local resident Diana Riehl. "This is North Upland, so there [are] nicer houses up here. And I think it would probably be welcomed. And I think it'll do well. I hope it does well."