Say “goodbye” to Avenue of the Flowers and “hello” to Town Shoppes of Longboat Key.
After three years of speculation, Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. revealed plans for its aging and mostly empty Avenue of the Flowers plaza. Publix submitted a preliminary application July 6 to the Longboat Key Planning, Zoning and Building Department.
The plans, detailed in a Bay Isles outline development plan (ODP) amendment and a site plan review, call for tearing down and rebuilding in its place at 525 Bay Isles Parkway:
- A larger, 49,533-square-foot Publix grocery store that will be connected to an 11,700-square-foot retail plaza with 360 nearby parking spaces.
- A stand-alone 14,528-square-foot CVS Pharmacy built where the former Shell gas station was located that will have 59 nearby parking spaces.
- A stand-alone, 4,000-square-foot office/retail building that will sit in the northeastern corner of the property near Bay Isles Road and have 24 nearby parking spaces.
In total, the project consists of 79,761 square feet of retail and office space, which is approximately 20,000 square feet less than the current Town Plaza I, which consists of the current Publix, CVS and a variety of other businesses and vacant spaces.
In total, the project will have 443 parking spaces on site, even though the application states the town code only requires 320 spaces.
The application also reveals that Publix is under contract with real-estate agent Howard Rooks for Town Plaza II, a 1.52-acre site and plaza, which includes tenants Nosh-A-Rye and Your Fitness Instructor. The purchase, however, does not include the restaurant site Rooks owns that was formerly occupied by Mattison’s Restaurant.
Rooks, who confirmed he is under contract to sell the property to Publix, declined to disclose the purchase price.
“It’s going to be a fabulous center once it’s complete,” Rooks said. “They are keeping a large chunk of the property as open space. I’m really excited about it, and the town’s residents will be, too.”
Publix is also under contract for a 0.97-acre piece of property near Bay Isles Road, where its office/retail building will be located. The property is owned by Longboat Key-based Bay Isles Enclave Acquisition LLC.
Bay Isles Enclave Acquisition LLC and its registered agent Joseph Wolfer could not be reached for comment about the sale of the property, which is near the vacant lot behind the current Publix.
The application also reveals that the rest of the 9.7-acre plaza will be complemented with walking trails, brick pavers, bicycle racks, a gazebo and more landscaping and trees.
“The pedestrian and vehicular connection between the shopping center and Bay Isles Road will be improved,” the application states. “In addition, there will be a direct connection between Bay Isles Road and Bay Isles Parkway, which will encourage pedestrian and bicycle circulation between the two areas.”
The application also explains that access to the plaza from the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center can also be accomplished at a later date.
A new, modern monument sign that will include Publix and CVS Pharmacy is also being requested for placement along Gulf of Mexico Drive. A town code departure is being requested for the sign because it’s 20 square feet larger than town code allows.
The letter that was attached to the application, signed by Joel Freedman, of Tampa-based Freedman Consulting & Development LLC, states the company’s goal for the project.
“The applicant and design team have worked very hard to create a more functional shopping center for Publix, CVS, the retail shops and the customer,” wrote Freedman, who described the future look of the buildings as having “island character” and a “high degree of elegance.” “The store being proposed is a special, first-of-its-kind prototype that incorporates many of the upscale features and services of the company’s Greenwise concept.”
Freedman also notes the plan calls for a “park-like setting for the center that the town and all the shoppers will enjoy.”
The new plaza, however, will come at a price to Key residents.
Publix discloses in the application that, pending approval from the Longboat Key Town Commission, it wants to close the shopping center, with the exception of CVS, after Easter 2012 and re-open in late December 2012.
Planning, Zoning and Building Director Monica Simpson said it’s too soon to comment on the application and that she has not had ample time to review it, which must be deemed complete by her department before it can be reviewed by town staff. Town staff will then provide an assessment of the application to the Longboat Key Planning and Zoning Board.
Publix spokesperson Shannon Patten told the Longboat Observer the company does not comment on pending projects until applications are approved.
“Until our plans are finalized and approved, it’s too early to talk about it,” Patten said. “We look forward, however, to continuing to serve the residents of this island community.”
Publix purchased the plaza Sept. 10, 2008, for $14 million from Dead River Properties.
Town Plaza I’s current tenants include Prudential Palms Realty, Patchington, Antony V’s Packaged Wines and Spirits, Nails of Longboat Key, CVS Pharmacy and White Sands Cleaners.
Currently, the plaza is more than half-empty, and Publix has not provided square footage vacancy numbers for the plaza.
Former Mayor and Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force Chairman George Spoll said he’s excited to look at the application with other members of his task force.
“Hopefully, it’s something this Key can get excited about,” Spoll said.
Contact Kurt Schultheis at [email protected].
Avenue of the Flowers Timeline
- June 1983 — Portland, Maine,-based Dead River Properties Inc. purchases Avenue of the Flowers from Arvida Corp. for $5 million.
- September 2007 — Boca Raton-based Woolbright Development Inc. begins telling tenants they are under contract to purchase the plaza, but the contract falls apart.
- May 2008 — Publix Super Markets Inc. officials meet with town officials to discuss the future of the plaza and a potential redevelopment. CVS Corp. officials discuss building a stand-alone location in an overflow parking lot of the Bank of America parcel before signing a long-term lease to stay a part of the plaza.
- Sept. 10, 2008 — Publix Super Markets Inc. purchases Avenue of the Flowers Town Plaza I from Dead River Properties Inc.
- January 2009 — Avenue of the Flowers tenants receive brief correspondence from Publix officials.
- July 6, 2011 — Publix officials submit an application to redevelop the plaza and rename it Town Shoppes of Longboat Key. Howard Rooks confirms he is under contract with Publix to sell Town Plaza II.