By: R. Michael Brown, Civic Association Communications Director
The Publix redevelopment team presented plans for its new Palm Beach store to about 100 members at a Civic Association symposium at the Paramount Building.
Ned Barnes, president of the Civic Association, started the meeting by reporting the current results of our town-wide poll. So far there have been 112 responses:
CIVIC ASSOCIATION POLL: Do you think the Town of Palm Beach should have a new larger PubliX?
Yes = 69%
No = 30%
Don't Know = 1%
The proposal demolishes the 40 year old existing store and the new store will be constructed further back on the lot to make room for more parking. The store will have 218 parking spaces. The new store is planned to be about 30% bigger in square footage. It will provide space inside the building for loading docks, garbage compactors, the main generator and emergency generators.
Proposed Publix Renderings CLICK HERE SEE MORE PICTURES
While the new floor of the store will be raised above flood level, the overall building height at the roofline will be slightly lower than the existing store.
Members had dozens of questions.
"With this added floor space we are planning to add items that customers have been asking about but we haven't had store shelf space for," said Nick Abiusi, Publix Store Manager. "We'll bring in products from our Green Wise brand and a larger wine area and Pharmacy."
When asked why they need a new larger store, Mr. Abiusi described the congestion when pharmacy customers and the Express Lane customers collide at lunchtime. "There isn't room for two lines." he said. "In addition, products are stacked on top of shelves out of customer reach and there is a lot of clogging in the aisles when carts pass. In a new store, the customer experience will be much better."
Residents that live around the Publix expressed concerns about the lack of residential parking and the extra traffic the store will generate. The Publix representatives said they looked into underground parking but residents in the area complained about the height of the proposed building with a garage underneath. That, plus the added cost, convinced planners not to pursue parking underground.
The presenters said the new store will generate an initial increase in traffic; but, after the initial reopening, the store would settle into the normal market traffic levels. They also reported the City Place Publix in West Palm Beach is scheduled to be replaced with a new store that is double in size. Consequently, no significant increase in traffic from West Palm is expected.
Publix does expect an increase in sales, however. "Because the shopping experience will be more pleasant, more parking, more products, we expect customers will shop longer and spend more." said Mr. Abiusi.
"We have to strike a delicate balance." Mr. Abiusi said. "We're aware that many in town don't want increased traffic from across the bridge, but we want to bring in products that residents here in town want. For example, total Green Wise stores have customers from miles away. A traditional Publix has customers from the neighborhood. If we make this a hybrid traditional/Green Wise store, we might attract too much traffic from out of town. Nobody wants that."
The presentation team is making the rounds and speaking to various community organizations prior to their ARCOM review this week.
If the plan is approved by ARCOM and the Town Council, construction is scheduled to start at the end of the season in 2011 and open in December, 2011.