Before opening, Whole Foods emerges as a symbol of progress in Pr. George’s

Whole Foodsv Moritz

The promise of living within walking distance of Whole Foods Market was a deciding factor for Keenan and Laura Keeling in their decision to move from Takoma Park to suburban Prince George’s County.

Their newly remodeled 1940s Cape Cod in University Park was their dream home — spacious, in a safe neighborhood, close to the District and more affordable than other options in the Washington region. But it lacked a city-center feel they also wanted.

“Once we saw that the Whole Foods was coming in, we said great,” said Keenan Keeling, 35, who owns a software development firm in Takoma Park. The couple moved just two blocks from the future Whole Foods, and they anticipate that the new development accompanying the store will create an urban feel in a suburban neighborhood.

“It will give University Park that one thing that it lacks: a downtown, a place where people can go to hang out,” he said.

It could be a year before Whole Foods Market opens in Prince George’s, but it is generating buzz, attracting young families such as the Keelings and boosting home values.

Residents and community and county leaders say that the specialty grocer is making the surrounding communities more attractive to millennials eager to get out of pricier Washington neighborhoods but expecting the same amenities. The store, the first Whole Foods in Prince George’s, also is a symbol of the county’s progress after years struggling to attract upscale retailers, many say.

“There’s definitely a Whole Foods effect,” said Jean Pirovic, a real estate agent who said she has sold four homes in the past month within a mile of the Whole Foods site. “It has gotten a lot of people excited about the area.”

Washington-based Calvin Cafritz Enterprises is building the 35,000-square-foot store, which will anchor a $250 million development known as Riverdale Park Station. The project will include 119 townhouses, 850 apartments, 160,000 square feet of retail space and 20,000 square feet of office space on a 37-acre site that borders University Park, College Park and University of Maryland property.