Plans for a much-anticipated Publix grocery store in Pensacola’s East Hill neighborhood were unveiled tonight at a meeting of the neighborhood association.
It’s been nearly a year since developer Jim White’s company purchased the former A.V. Clubbs School property on East Cervantes Street, and seven months since the developer confirmed that Publix had leased the site and planned to build a grocery store. At the end of August, a Publix “Coming Soon” sign appeared in front of the school, further building anticipation about the project.
The store, which will occupy a city block on Cervantes Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, will be the first of its kind in Pensacola. Most of the city’s grocery stores — including Publix stores on North 9th Avenue, in Bellview, and in Gulf Breeze — are decidedly suburban in character, featuring homogenous big-box design and large parking lots which front the street. The East Hill store, on the other hand, will be more like Publix’s stores in Downtown Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Atlanta, and other urban areas.
White says the East Hill Publix will front Cervantes Street, with parking located behind the store. At 29,000 square feet, the store will be about two-thirds the size of a traditional Publix, while still offering a bakery, deli, pharmacy, and full range of groceries. White says that Publix wants the store to be sensitive to the neighborhood surroundings of East Hill while maintaining the products and services that customers have grown to expect. The store will also feature outdoor seating, bike racks, and pedestrian crosswalks, reflecting the walkable and bikeable nature of the neighborhood.
One of Pensacola’s fastest growing neighborhoods, East Hill’s density and recent growth made it an attractive location, said White. He also referenced the City’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee report, which called for the city to pursue a downtown grocery store, as support for the project. “Publix was not serving Downtown Pensacola as well as they would like to be,” White said. “I’m really proud to do this store. As a developer, I don’t always get an opportunity to do a unique project like this.”
Demolition of the school building is slated to start by the middle of next month, with construction of the new store expected to be completed by early 2017.