Publix Super Markets Inc. wants to open another Publix almost next door in the former Lucky’s Market in Neptune Beach.
While it is designed with the elements of its natural and organics GreenWise format, the store will be a Publix with some of the new features, including the coffee, beer and wine service for shoppers.
“Our Neptune Publix will be a traditional Publix location, with an outdoor seating area, and yes, the POURS venue from our GreenWise Market location,” said Maria Brous, Publix director of communications, in an email Sept. 17.
“We are always looking to best serve our customers and communities. When business sustains more than one location in close proximity, we will take that opportunity to alleviate congestion in one location and offer easy access for customer convenience, at either location,” she said.
That means almost side-by-side Publixes at 580 Atlantic Blvd., the former Lucky’s Market, and the larger existing store at 630 Atlantic Blvd.
Renderings presented to the Neptune Beach Community Development Board show the Publix logo at the proposed 580 Atlantic Blvd. store, but the description closely mirrors the GreenWise natural and organic food concept.
The GreenWise POURS department offers kombucha on tap, coffee, craft beer, wine and more. Customers can drink at the store, including as they shop, or take the beverages to go.
Publix appears to be proposing a distinctly different concept at the former Lucky’s from its traditional grocery at 630 Atlantic Blvd.
It proposes a smaller store promoting grab-and-go prepared foods and organic foods and that serves kombucha, craft beer and wine for customers to drink while they shop, such as is allowed at GreenWise.
The Neptune Beach Community Development Board recommended approval Sept. 16 for a zoning variance to allow the new Publix in the Neptune Plaza West shopping center.
The property owner, as the applicant, did not mention GreenWise. Neither did the board. Publix officials did not speak.
Publix has been expanding its GreenWise concept, often in smaller locations near its existing full-line markets, although Supermarketnews.com reported the supermarket company recently closed the two locations in South Carolina. Publix has seven GreenWise stores in Florida, Alabama and Georgia and intends to open three more, all in Florida.
The first area GreenWise location opened June 20 in Nocatee across the street from a Publix supermarket. Another is planned at the Shoppes at World Commerce Center at Florida 16 and International Golf Parkway near World Golf Village. Both are in St. Johns County.
Neptune Beach FL Realty LLC, the property owner and applicant, seeks a variance for relief from the Neptune Beach land development code that requires a 1,000-foot separation between businesses under common ownership or management that together exceed 60,000 square feet in gross floor area.
The former Lucky’s Market is 29,810 square feet and is within 500 feet of the existing 54,310-square-foot Publix at 630 Atlantic Blvd. The variance request would increase the combined square footage from the maximum 60,000 square feet allowed to 89,500 square feet.
When Lucky’s Market declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January, it had about 16 years remaining on a 20-year lease. Publix Super Markets Inc. agreed to take over the lease and extend the terms to April 30, 2040, with extension options.
To obtain the variance, the applicant must demonstrate a unique hardship and unusual circumstances with the property.
The applicant presented reasons for hardship, citing the lack of other suitable commercial parcels in Neptune Beach; market conditions negatively impacting brick-and-mortar retailers; the code preventing different store concepts based on ownership; and the new Publix will serve a different demographic and geographic location.
The board conditioned its approval recommendation based upon a development agreement for proposed improvements, which would be required through a development agreement with the city.
Neptune Beach FL Realty LLC requested a development agreement for the improvements, which would be a separate process with the Neptune Beach City Council, said Community Development Director Kristina Wright.
Those plans include improvements to the property by extending Lemon Street west to the Publix at 630 Atlantic Blvd., allowing vehicular and pedestrian access; providing a grand vehicular arrival entrance from Atlantic Boulevard along with a separate pedestrian arrival; creating outdoor seating and a pedestrian plaza with courtyard space; adding parking islands and landscaping; adding a Beach Buggy stop with seating; expanding golf cart and bicycle parking; upgrading the architectural elements of the building with a modern facade; and adding perimeter buffer plantings.
The development agreement would need to be sponsored by a Council member and approved before the final council hearing on the variance request.
The Community Development Board voted 6-1 in favor of the variance, with Wright recommending denial of the variance based on the applicant’s failure to demonstrate hardship.
Board members and public speakers stated that if another grocer like Winn-Dixie or Aldi proposed a store in the space vacated by Lucky’s, a variance would not be required.
The majority of comments were in favor of approving the variance.
The decision now is up to Council.