Many grocery companies have responded to downtown and inner city growth areas with urban designed stores, such as this Publix in downtown Fort Lauderdale. There may be an opportunity for Winn-Dixie to create a flagship location in or near downtown Jacksonville.
In recent years, a growing number of supermarkets no longer automatically insist on constructing big box stores sitting behind a sea of asphalt. Instead, newer urban stores now come up to the sidewalk, include small specialty shops along their perimeter, and even have parking beneath or residential units above. Local examples of this trend include the Riverside Publix and a proposed five story development in San Marco that will include a 30,000sf Publix, 27,000sf of retail shops, a 300 space parking garage, and condos above.
In the meantime, many have been begging for a new downtown grocery market, despite an existing 30,000sf Winn-Dixie at 777 Market Street. According to an article last week, weekly sales have doubled with new store management and the Jacksonville-based company is committed to having a presence downtown, but not the current site. In the near future, the chain will make a decision to renovate the current location, build a new store nearby, or possibly do both.
Vibrant downtown's are built from communities taking advantage of economic opportunities when they pop up. Because of this, it should light a fire in the pants of local officials, downtown advocates, and residents to take advantage of the situation.
URBAN GROCERIES ARE COMING ONLINE FROM COAST TO COAST
Left: The 16 story Paramount on Lake Eola, in downtown Orlando, will include a 30,000sf Publix at street level, with 313 condos above.
Right: A 67,000sf Whole Foods will be included in a 306 unit Hollywood, CA project proposed by Houston-based Camden Property Trust.
POTENTIAL NORTHBANK LOCATIONS
In an effort to promote discussion, Metro Jacksonville takes the opportunity to suggest potential relocation sites that have the power to benefit all involved parties.
HAYDON BURNS LIBRARY
Rumor has it the Main Branch LLC and the JEDC are close to a deal for the old public library. Main Branchs proposal includes plans for a small specialty grocery market, but it appears that the lack of parking may kill that part of the proposal. With Winn-Dixie considering a new location, this could be the ideal spot for such a store. It is a highly visible site and is centrally located in the Northbank core. To make it work, we will have to get creative with the parking situation. Is it possible to lease spaces in nearby garages or surface lots? Do we really need to restrict parallel parking on Forsyth, Adams and Ocean for rush hour traffic, considering downtown doesnt really have a rush hour?
JTA SKYWAY/BUS TERMINAL (FCCJ Skyway station)
Two years ago, the JTA approved a land-lease deal with Renaissance Design Build Group. The plans were to construct 7,000sf of retail space next to the transit center on Laura Street, between State and Union Streets.
Well, to date nothing has happened. A flagship urban oriented Winn-Dixie at this site could be a winner for all parties. 85% of the existing Winn-Dixies customers arrive by bus. With a location next to JTAs bus terminal, it cant get anymore convenient than that. With the skyway in place, this location is also within easy reach for downtown residents on the North and Southbanks. Winn-Dixie could also gain by selling their existing store. To make a store work at this location, a vertical oriented plan would need to be put in place, similar to the Publix project planned in San Marco.
MAIN STREET POCKET PARK SITE
This may be the most intriguing site of all. Bounded by Ocean, Duval, Main and Monroe Streets, ownership of this block is split between the City and the Salvation Army. Unfortunately, the city plans to waste good public money converting their L-shaped .75 acre parcel into a pocket park with dreams of attracting library patrons despite the library already having an outdoor courtyard/café and Hemming Plaza being located on the other side of the building.
Instead of wasting a perfectly developable urban site, lets use a little vision and think big. How about a land swap between Salvation Army and Winn-Dixie? Salvation Army would end up getting a 30,000sf facility, While Winn-Dixie could become a part of a block wide urban development, featuring additional retail, parking, and public space with affordable work force housing units above. This puts a new grocery store in the heart of the core, rids us of a nasty surface lot, and is still convenient for Springfield residents. Another benefit would be the relocation of Salvation Armys services away from the business/residential core of downtown.
This is just three possible relocation sites and there are more out there. Who knows how long this opportunity will last, so lets get the discussion started.