I attended the "Almost Open Party" at the new Union Square Whole Foods last night. It was a benefit for the Union Square Park renovation, but I'm press so I was invited and comped.
It's gorgeous. They've really thought through a lot of the space issues that plague Manhattan grocery stores.
The store "proper" is down one escalator ride (there's also an elevator), and it is indeed vast. None of the fresh produce or meats were out--the store is slated to open fully on Wednesday--but all the dry goods and canned foods were out. I did a random price check--De Cecco pastas $1.99/lb. (they're cheaper elsewhere) and marcona almonds were $17.99/lb. (ditto) The management is going to HAVE to adjust those prices: Due to the density of grocery stores in the area, Union Square and environs have MANY, many choices as to where to buy food, probably more than anywhere in the country. I also found it a bit too bright, but that's a minor quibble.
I've shopped in both the Chelsea and Columbus Circle editions of Whole Foods, and I particularly like the quality and cuts of meat available. Yes, it's pricey, but you do get what you pay for.
The street level is (wisely) devoted to prepared foods, something Whole Foods is well known for. And up one flight is a charming cafe with ample seating and a lovely view of the park.
As expected, this is a major addition to the neighborhood. I hope they're as smart as they're supposed to be when it comes to pricing, though.