Here’s the scoop on the Westgate Publix closing

Shoppers who frequent Publix supermarket at Westgate Plaza in Gainesville will need to shop at other locations after 7 p.m. Saturday (May 1).

Publix is closing the Westgate location and plans to replace it in the coming months with the construction of a new and updated store, according a company spokesperson.

“This location has been a staple in the Gainesville community for almost 55 years,” said Chris Norberg, community relations manager for Publix Super Markets, Inc. “Serving our customers during this time has been a pleasure and we are excited to build a new 48,000 square foot store in its footprint.”

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Norberg said the project is tentatively slated for completion in mid-2022. 

Shoppers were given notice via signs posted on the storefront and from published public notices. When the new store opens in about a year, the entrance will face West University Avenue instead of SW 34th Street.

Norberg did not offer further details of the new building and floor plans, but Publix has recently joined the retail trend of moving toward self-checkout stations and curbside pickup zones. 

Mainstreet Daily News obtained the development plans through a public records request and learned the following about the project:

In November 2020, the City of Gainesville issued a tree mitigation invoice for the amount of $69,546.29.

“The following tree mitigation fee is due to the City of Gainesville. This fee will need to be paid in full before issuance of the development order,” reads the document signed by Gainesville Urban Forestry Inspector Chelsea Proia.

According to a letter to the city dated April 22, 2020, principal engineer Sergio Reyes of EDA Consultants, Inc. of Gainesville, the project site is 5.53 acres and is for “a grocery store and additional liner buildings.”

An Oct. 18, 2019, letter regarding the traffic report to Gainesville Public Works from Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc. addresses the decrease in the overall gross floor area of the replacement building.

“The existing Publix Westgate Shopping Center generally located south of State Road (SR) 26/University Avenue, north of SR 26A/SW 2nd Avenue, and east of SR 121/34th Street in the City of Gainesville, Florida is proposed to be redeveloped,” the letter states. “The proposed redevelopment consists of replacing the approximately 63,000 square-foot building that contains the existing Publix with a new Publix building and outparcels totaling approximately 56,000 square feet.” 

A neighborhood workshop for the “proposed variance and development plan” for the project was held almost two years ago, in July 2019, a notice in the project file states. According to the sign-in sheet, four people attended that meeting held at the Millhopper Branch Library.

“We are applying for a variance for the setback at the loading dock. The city requires that the building be adjacent to the road, but because of the loading dock, there wouldn’t be enough room for the trucks to maneuver,” the neighborhood meeting minutes states. It continues: “It will be a smaller building than the existing one. Because of city rules, we have to put buildings around the perimeter of the parcel, called ‘liner buildings.'”

Future Publix store rendering

Questions answered at that meeting revealed the following details about the project:

Q: How big is the store?

A: 48,500 square feet, plus a second-story mezzanine with indoor seating. This will be a brand new store layout, and a couple thousand square feet larger than the Millhopper Publix.

Q: Will there be a pharmacy and liquor store?

A: A liquor store might be located in an outbuilding, but the pharmacy will be inside of Publix. We will need a variance for the building setback on 2nd Avenue. Trucks will be screened from the street by a wall, but will not be as close to the street as the city requires. Will have a public hearing, DRB meeting in August.

Q: How many tenants total?

A: Five or six tenant spaces in the liner buildings, plus Publix.

Q: No parking garage?

A: No. Last time we were trying to accommodate CVS as well, but they have made the decision to leave the property.

Q: Where is the entrance?

A: There will be doors on both the north and west side. The main entrance is to the north, facing University Avenue.

Q. What will I see from the 2nd Avenue side?

A: An enclosed loading dock. You will not see the trucks from 2nd Avenue once they pull in. You won’t notice it’s the back of the store because of glazing and building articulation. There will also be landscaping.

Q: We had heard that Publix bought the property

A: No, they are leasing it with a long term lease.

Q: Is there a left turn lane off University Avenue?

A: Yes; we’re going to do some improvements on University to add a few stacking spaces for left turn lane.

Q: What about stormwater?

A: Will be underground in parking lot area.

Q: When will construction start?

A: It’s going to take the rest of the year to get the permits. Construction will start next year and take about 12 months. The liner buildings will be built first, and the existing tenants moved into those spaces before Publix closes and is rebuilt.

Q: I’m guessing there’s a sidewalk along the west side of the building?

A: Yes—sidewalks will connect to all of the surrounding roads and run around the perimeter of the site.

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