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Whole Foods Market developer buys Northtown Plaza

Plans for Western New York’s first Whole Foods Market at the Northtown Plaza took a major step forward late Friday, as the project’s Massachusetts-based developer completed its purchase of the aging Amherst retail center.

WS Development announced that it had acquired the 375,000-square-foot plaza, at Sheridan Drive and Niagara Falls Boulevard. It did not disclose how much it paid for the 19-acre property – its first holding and project in New York state – and the deed had not yet been filed with the Erie County Clerk’s office.

The company unveiled plans last year to replace the long-vacant 100,000-square-foot Bon-Ton Department Store building at the site with a new 50,000-square-foot supermarket for the Austin, Texas-based upscale grocer, and obtained municipal approvals. Officials said Friday they intend to begin demolition of the Bon-Ton immediately.

But the developer’s plans go much further. The Buffalo News last year reported that WS Development’s preliminary proposals, mapped out in diagrams that were shopped to prominent national retail chains, showed a complete overhaul of the plaza, with new upscale stores, many of them likely coming from other nearby malls or retail centers. That prompted significant worry among the existing tenants, many of whom lack long-term leases.

“Northtown Plaza will be refreshed and rejuvenated to serve the local customer with an offering that is currently not available, as well as draw new customers to the market from Southern Ontario and the Western New York region,” said WS partner Dick Marks in a release. “Our long term vision includes a well balanced mix of best-in-class local, regional and national retailers and restaurants.”