One of the city's most prominent redevelopment projects is again being delayed, but the developer on Wednesday was adamant that the project is moving forward.
Hilldale Shopping Center developer Joseph Freed & Associates announced Wednesday that it would not begin construction of a Whole Foods Market along with a parking structure, retail and office space until the spring of 2009.
That means the large hole in the ground at the corner of University Avenue and Segoe Road will remain empty through the winter.
"I'm disappointed," said Ald. Tim Gruber, who represents the area. "It is a problem for the neighborhood - the aesthetics of it the way it looks. But it seems to me unavoidable considering our (economy)."
Freed, a Chicago-based developer, originally planned to start construction this past spring but over the last eight months has revised those plans and changed anticipated starting dates for the grocery, 65,000-square-feet of office space and the 675-stall parking structure.
Construction was originally scheduled to begin in March. When that didn't happen, Freed officials said a harsh winter and changes to the design would delay the project until July. In July, officials with Freed said the project would begin in August.
"Current conditions in the retail and financing markets have affected the schedule for redevelopment of this site, but contrary to recent speculation, the commitment of the principal parties to this project has not changed," said Bob Freed, chief operating officer for Freed.
Freed, began clearing the Hilldale site last fall for the project, now valued at $70 million.
But on the day it began demolition of the Hilldale Theatre and other buildings, Freed announced a major change to the project.
The 125-room Hotel Indigo, planned for the west side of the shopping center, would replace a 90-unit condominium tower near the Whole Foods store. Then in December, Freed said a second, 112-unit condominium tower was also being scrapped from the project, eliminating residential development from Phase 2.
Freed officials said Wednesday they are "investigating the potential" for starting the hotel development ahead of the revised schedule. The property has the appearance of a quarry with tall weeds taking root in the remains.
Freed officials met with Mayor Dave Cieslewicz on Wednesday to outline the plans. Cieslewicz could not be reached late Wednesday for comment.
Gruber was among those who met with Freed officials Wednesday afternoon.
"A lot of people, including myself, are nervous about it," Gruber said of the project and its repeated delays and changes. "While this is a setback, at least there's hope that it will go ahead."
The change in plans for the proposed 62,000-square-foot Whole Foods store would mean the store would not open at its new location until 2010, said Kate Klotz, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods. The company currently operates a 36,000-square-foot store at 3313 University Ave.
"It is what it is," Klotz said late Wednesday. "It's a business decision and it's something we have to respect. At least we still have a location that we can offer our shoppers."