Wegmans Food Markets is close to a deal to open its first Boston store in the Fenway neighborhood, in what could be the beginning of a battle with Whole Foods Market Inc. for supermarket supremacy in the city.
The Rochester, N.Y., chain is talks to build a store at the Landmark Center complex at the corner of Boylston Street and Brookline Avenue, a spokeswoman for Wegmans confirmed Monday. Developer Steve Samuels has been working on plans to redevelop the massive office and retail complex for several months.
“Discussions with the developer [Samuels] are underway, and we anticipate that an acceptable agreement can be reached in the near future,” said Jo Natale, the Wegmans spokeswoman.
Mayor Thomas M. Menino first announced plans for the Fenway store Monday in a speech before the Boston Municipal Research Bureau. The mayor touted the city’s recent growth spurt, noting an influx of new residents, retailers and other businesses that are rapidly remaking the city’s downtown core and its outlying neighborhoods.
The opening of a store at Landmark Center would give a huge boost to Samuels’s effort to redevelop the property, which he purchased from the Abbey Group two years ago. A spokeswoman for Samuels said negotiations with Wegmans are proceeding, and that additional details will be announced soon.
Already, Samuels and other developers have revitalized several large tracks of land in the Fenway, building new residential towers and restaurants that have modernized the area’s once shabby real estate. Wegmans has been shopping for a location in the Fenway or South End for several months.
The company’s expansion into the city sets up a competition with Whole Foods, which has also expanded in the area recently, signing deals to build new stores in Charlestown, the South End and Brookline.
A Fenway location would also put Wegmans next door to a Shaw’s supermarket at the corner of Boylston and Brookline. The Shaw’s market is located in a concrete block of a building, and has become increasingly dated in appearance and food selection.
Wegmans, a family-run chain, launched its first Massachusetts store in Northborough in 2011. The 138,000-square-foot food emporium’s grand opening attracted huge crowds, setting a record for the company. Wegmans, which operates 81 stores in six states, plans to open a large supermarket in Burlington, and a scaled-back, 70,000-square-foot version in Chestnut Hill.
The Chestnut Hill store—which will be the smallest the company has built in a decade—would probably become the model for the Landmark Center location.
At a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event last year, Wegmans chief executive Danny Wegman said he was fascinated with the Boston region, which he described as the most highly educated and densely populated market the chain has entered. But the fact that the region was different required the company to tinker with its successful business formula, something Wegman said was unnerving.
“In some ways, coming to Boston is terrifying,” he said. “Going from 130,000 feet to 70,000, you’re making an enormous amount of guesses. This is a big deal for us.”
Supermarket and drugstore chains across the country, including Walmart and Walgreens, have focused on opening urban grocery stores as a new avenue for growth. Most such stores are considerably smaller than their suburban counterparts.