St. Armands Circle merchants have worried about losing businesses to University Town Center Mall, but now both shopping destinations have a new threat: the Longboat Key Town Center.
Publix officials embraced the concept of a town center so warmly that they agreed to immediately tear down the existing Longboat Key Publix and its adjoining plaza that opened in December 2012.
The store and its plaza will close May 1 and will be shifted further east, to the site of the Wolfer property the town is purchasing for $1.5 million. Publix has agreed to buy the Wolfer property from the town for $2 million later this year.
By shifting the store and adjoining plaza approximately 500 feet to the east, the town and a future development partner can use some of the property where Publix now sits to build a new pedestrian-only retail center called Main Street Plaza.
The Urban Land Institute report, which suggested the town center concept, called for a retail town center that included some shops in a pedestrian-type setting to attract Key residents.
Publix officials began shopping the town center concept to potential tenants and realized businesses would be willing to fill up a larger plaza.
“The interest for tenants in a new pedestrian-only roundabout has come from St. Armands Circle to Lakewood Ranch,” the spokesman said.
The interest in the plaza has led to a new 150,000-square-foot retail roundabout center concept that looks similar to a St. Armands Circle configuration, without the roads.
Cars will not be allowed to enter the Main Street Plaza or new Publix plaza once it’s built.
The concept draws motorists from Bay Isles Road and Bay Isles Parkway into Main Street Plaza. Parallel parking will be built along both roads, and a segway system will take pedestrians into the plaza, which will include a walkable Main Street, open-space park and future cultural center.
Overflow parking in season will be allowed along Gulf of Mexico Drive. The Longboat Key Club has also agreed to park cars in Harbourside and shuttle pedestrians to the town center through an agreement that’s still in the works.
Although higher-end stores such as White House Black Market have expressed interest, other independent stores and eateries are intrigued as well, according to Publix officials.
A We Buy Gold Store was the first store, Publix officials confirmed, to sign a letter of intent to sign a lease in the new town center.
An independent eatery called Munchies 420 Café has signed a letter of intent to lease at the town center, next to a new medical marijuana dispensary, The Grass is Greener, which is also joining the fold. The Kiwanis Club of Longboat Key is also interested in signing a lease for a new eatery called Pot & Pancakes, with all proceeds of its pancake sales going to help rehabilitate youths dealing with drug addiction.
The biggest change for Longboaters, though, involves getting used to a grocery store without a vehicle parking lot. Shoppers must park in designated town center parallel parking spots or Key Club parking spots and either walk or be shuttled to the new grocery store on segways. Entering the plaza on foot will force shoppers to interact with other Longboaters at the town center retail district as they walk to get their groceries.
“The ULI study called for resident interaction and that’s what Longboaters are going to get,” a Publix official said.
The store will reopen April 1, 2015.
Free Greenwise Publix ponchos and umbrellas will be handed out to shoppers on rainy days.
Shoppers with disabilities will be able to call Publix once they arrive and will be shuttled to and from the store in wheelchairs by Publix employees.
Town center retail and grocery shoppers with disabilities looking for a more independent experience can also take advantage of 25 electricity-operated shopping golf carts that will be allowed in a separate pedestrian-only handicapped lane that can be accessed throughout the town center.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at firstname.lastname@example.org
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