The Howard Hughes Corporation (NYSE: HHC) announced today they have entered into a lease agreement with Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM). Located in the former Rouse Company headquarters, the new store – specifically designed for the Columbia shopper – will offer the highest quality natural and organic products. The store will feature an amazing array of local and artisan foods as well as an expanded bulk foods department.

Currently occupied by The Howard Hughes Corporation, the former Rouse Company building was designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry for Columbia founder James W. Rouse.  Opened in 1974, the building is on the shore of Lake Kittamaqundi and is a centerpiece of downtown Columbia. The four-story, 151,000 square foot building is distinguished  by its flat roof, stepped terraces and trellises, dark gray tinted glass and textured white stucco exterior. Whole Foods Market will occupy 45,000 square feet of the building with the market on the main level adjacent to the parking on Little Patuxent Parkway.

“We are proud to seek and develop in areas that share a strong commitment and passion for quality natural and organic foods,” said Scott Allshouse, Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic region president.  “Opening in Columbia is an excellent opportunity for us to plant solid roots, encourage economic growth, job creation and community engagement.  We are looking forward to joining the neighborhood and curating long-lasting relationships and partnerships in Columbia and its surrounding areas.”

“The development efforts by The Howard Hughes Corporation will transform Downtown Columbia, and landing Whole Foods as an anchor is akin to leading off the game with a home run,” said Ken Ulman, Howard County Executive. “Having Whole Foods at the Rouse Building also achieves our objective of preserving and highlighting this Frank Gehry original.”

Following restoration and renovation efforts to the building over the next several months by The Howard Hughes Corporation – which will include creating a spectacular double height space for the store by removing the floor above the main level in the building – Whole Foods Market will finish out its market to open in late summer or early fall of 2014. Both companies intend to honor and enhance the unique architecture of the iconic building.

“Along with the recently approved plans for the new Metropolitan luxury apartment complex, Whole Foods coming to the Rouse Building serves as a catalyst for creating the vibrant, walkable, more urban setting envisioned for Downtown Columbia,” said John DeWolf, senior vice president of The Howard Hughes Corporation.  “We look forward to announcing more new development and revitalization plans for downtown neighborhoods, including the Crescent parcels adjacent to Merriweather Post Pavilion as well as the pavilion itself.”