The Longboat Key Publix is attracting more than just grocery shoppers.
In the coming months, it could attract two new restaurants, some new businesses and, possibly, a future town center.
In the months leading up to the store’s Dec. 13 opening, rumors circulated about what’s in store for the parcels surrounding the new grocery store.
Up first, the last piece of the former Avenue of the Flowers Plaza will be torn down — but not until after season.
Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc., which bought the Avenue of the Flowers II plaza from Howard Rooks and used a portion of it to house its construction operations, won’t tear it down until April, after the Easter rush. In its place will come more parking spaces and landscaping.
Rooks still owns the former Mattison’s Steakhouse building at the Plaza, which Publix was not interested in buying.
Rooks, though, said he has interest from a Sarasota restaurateur who would like to lease the space for a new restaurant on the Key.
“Ultimately, I hope to get a restaurant back up and running in the space in the next three months or so,” Rooks said. “I also plan to make improvements to the building, redo the landscaping and renovate the parking lot.”
Longboat Key resident Joe Wolfer, who owns two vacant parcels that sit along Bay Isles Road near the Publix property, doubts that a restaurant can survive again in that space.
Wolfer said he’s held preliminary discussions with Rooks about purchasing the property, which he believes is better suited to package with his approximately three acres of vacant property for use as a future town center.
Publix paid Wolfer $1.1 million two years ago for one acre of property along the right side of the new grocery store that it uses for parking.
“The remaining three acres of land is available for sale, and my belief is it would be a significant improvement if the land were made into a town center,” Wolfer said.
Apparently, the town agrees with Wolfer’s assessment.
Town Manager Dave Bullock confirmed he has held preliminary discussions with Wolfer about acquiring the land.
Wolfer said the town offered $700,000 for the property, which was valued at $1.2 million after the town paid for two appraisals, six months ago.
But Bullock said no official offer for the property was ever made.
“I’m keeping an eye on that property and have also met with Mr. Rooks about his property,” Bullock said. “The town has not made any formal offers but will maintain a dialogue with both property owners.”
Wolfer is hopeful the property will be sold to the town but said he’s not willing to “give the property away.”
“I’m a town resident, and I can see this land being utilized with benches, a park and a place to walk with a cup of coffee,” Wolfer said. “It could only help enhance an area that’s the center of our community.”
Meanwhile, some current and new businesses are making their way into the retail plaza that Publix built to the left of its new grocery store.
Rumors are circulating about whether the former Longboat Liquors will enter the space closest to Publix or if Publix hopes to place a Publix Liquors store there.
Publix spokesperson Shannon Patten said she couldn’t comment on future tenants or upcoming changes to the new Shoppes of Bay Isles at this time.
Nails of Longboat Key opened last weekend next to the former liquor store space, and White Sands Dry Cleaner opened this week next door to the nail salon.
Premier Sotheby’s International Realty will acquire 866 square feet of space next to the dry cleaner, according to the leasing website.
Your Fitness Instructor and Longboat Key Dental also have openings planned soon.
What’s left in the plaza is a 1,299-square-foot spot in the middle and a 2,578-square-foot spot at the end of the plaza, where Publix wants to put a restaurant.
Petar Sibinkic, owner of Your Fitness Instructor, received the certificate of occupancy for his new 2,598-square-foot gym last week and has a construction crew working on the gym now.
“We’re really excited to be a part of this new plaza,” Sibinkic said. “I’m happy with the mix of tenants we already have and hope a future restaurant will sit right next door to me sometime soon.”