Publix finally coming to San Marco

Publix finally coming to San Marco

It looks like Publix might finally make its way to its long-awaited location in East San Marco after all.

Regency Centers, owner of the property, plans to unveil plans for its 4.33-acre parcel at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue during a special San Marco Preservation Society (SMPS) Town Meeting, Thursday, Oct. 3 at Southside Baptist Church. 

The meeting is one of three the preservation society is sponsoring in October. On Wednesday, October 16 at 6 p.m. SPMS is hosting a town hall at Preservation Hall to discuss the city’s plans to install a floating boat dock and fishing pier at Riverfront Park. A week later, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, District 5 Councilwoman LeAnna Cumber with be the guest speaker during the society’s Speaker Series at Preservation Hall. All three events are free, and the public is welcome. 

The topic under discussion Oct. 3 will be Regency Center’s plans to modify their existing PUD, which had been tailored for a multi-story, mixed-use project that would include 239 residential units, 46,000 square feet of retail space, including a 33,000 square-foot Publix and a six-story garage.

The new plans will not be nearly as grandiose, said Cumber. Although she said she could not go into specific details, Cumber said Regency intends to remove all the residences from the PUD and transform the project into a partial two-story courtyard commercial shopping area with a large Publix on the second floor and a surface parking underneath. The height of the structure in the PUD will be reduced from 77 feet to 50 feet, she said.

“Because they are moving the Publix upstairs, they will be able to have two entrances, one off Alford Street and one off Mango Street,” Cumber said, noting the previous plan, which included a ground-floor Publix with residences above, allowed for only one entrance to the project.

Also included in the project will be retail stores along Atlantic Boulevard and Hendricks Avenue, with a two-story restaurant on the corner of Atlantic and Hendricks, she said, adding the project will form a courtyard with stores along the perimeter and parking in the middle and underneath the Publix. “The grocery store will be the same size as the Publix at University Boulevard, not the baby Publix in Riverside,” Cumber said.

A walkway will divide the parking underneath Publix from the remaining stores along Atlantic Avenue, and an effort will be made to screen the courtyard parking lot and parking area underneath Publix with foliage to make it more attractive to the community, she said. “It’s important for the neighborhood to have walkability,” she said. The buildings will boast a Mediterranean design to be in keeping with San Marco Square. “We want to make sure it fits into the neighborhood and with the square.”

 “It will be a single-floor Publix on top of first-floor parking,” confirmed Eric Davidson of Regency Centers. “There will be a surface lot, but also hidden parking in the first-floor space under the Publix. The entrances to the parking lot will be on Mango and Alford, with plenty of pedestrian access as well.”

Shoppers will be able to access the second-floor grocery story through “spacious elevators” and a customer staircase,” Davidson said. 

SMPS President Linzee Ott, who has also reviewed the plans, said the preservation society is “reserving judgement” on the project until it determines what the community wants. “We’re happy with the architectural plans and the design so far,” she said. “Everything looks consistent with the atmosphere of San Marco, and we’re pleased with what we’ve seen so far. We’re working with them on a couple of little things. What the public’s opinion is on October 3 will impact our decision and our opinion.

“I live in San Marco, and I would love to be able to walk to a Publix to get my groceries,” Ott continued. “It’s a huge benefit, but there are some concerns, obviously, that I think the public will echo, but a Publix or a grocery store in San Marco would be a huge asset and make San Marco the most walkable neighborhood in all of Jacksonville. I’m really excited about the far-reaching community-wide impacts this will have.”

Patrick McKinley, vice president and market officer for Regency Center’s North Florida portfolio, is the team leader for Regency Centers, Ott said, adding that the company wants to approach the public in a transparent way. “They want to message it the right way because they know people have been wanting it so long,” she said.

The East San Marco project has had several false starts over the past decade. Previous plans for East San Marco’s long-awaited multi-use development fell apart in 2017 when ArchCo Residential of Atlanta, primary developer of the project, declined to move forward with the purchase of the land during its closing on March 13, 2017. ArchCo and Blue Rock Residential Growth REIT, Inc. had intended to purchase the land from Regency Centers, then sell back the retail space to Regency once the project was complete. At that time, construction on the project had been expected to start April 1, 2017, with expected delivery on the residential units in early 2019.

ArchCo was also co-developing the project with G. John Carey of Whitehall Realty Partners of San Marco, who was to be the boots-on-the-ground partner overseeing the construction. ArchCo Residential had been granted $48 million in building permits for the development in late December 2016. 

Davidson said Regency Centers is serious this time and plans to break ground and complete construction as soon as possible.  “Publix has been fully committed this entire time. We modified the plan to eliminate the residential, which was previously slowing things down. We’re excited to present this latest plan that will provide the best experience for the people of San Marco,” he said. 

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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