Is Downtown Ready for an Urban Grocery Store?

July 31, 2006 58 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

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.

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.

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.
Rumor has it the Main Branch LLC and the JEDC are close to a deal for the old public  library. Main Branch’s 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 doesn’t really have a rush hour?
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-Dixie’s  customers arrive by bus. With a location next to JTA’s bus terminal, it can’t  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.


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 Army’s 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.