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Publix opened a new Lake County store in 2016 on State Road 19 in Tavares.
Jerry Fallstrom/Orlando Sentinel
Publix opened a new Lake County store in 2016 on State Road 19 in Tavares.

Publix Super Markets intends to raze an existing grocery store in the Shoppes of Lake Village complex in Leesburg and replace it with a new, larger store.

The plans are spelled out in permitting documents filed by Publix’s local engineer June 30 calling for the demolition of the existing 44,721-square-foot store, built in 1998, and construction of a 51,917-square-foot store on roughly the same footprint.

The rest of the shopping village would remain largely intact, with the exception of an E-Z Lube Car Wash on the southwest corner of the property, which has already been razed. That site is being replaced by parking.

In addition to anchor Publix, the Shoppes of Lake Village is home to Advanced Auto Parts, Dollar Tree, nail and hair salons, several restaurants, and additional retail outlets.

Representatives of Lakeland-based Publix; its local representative Bohler Engineering of Boca Raton; and Phillips Edison, the Cincinnati, Ohio-based real estate investment trust that owns the shopping village, did not respond to requests for interviews.

Publix opened a new Lake County store in 2016 on State Road 19 in Tavares.
Publix opened a new Lake County store in 2016 on State Road 19 in Tavares.

Leesburg Planning and Zoning Manager Dan Miller told GrowthSpotter that city staff has held discussions with Phillips Edison representatives, but the city has not received specific plans or applications. No city permits, such as those needed for demolition, have been issued, but Miller said, “We do expect it to occur. As far as a timetable, I do not know.”

It is not uncommon for grocers like Publix to dramatically upgrade tired, decades-old buildings.

Jill Rose, vice president of retail services for Bishop Beale Duncan Commercial Real Estate in Orlando, is not affiliated with the Lake Village Publix and did not know details of the plans, but she has extensive experience with Publix-anchored shopping centers. She said it “probably just makes sense for them to do that” at the Leesburg site.

“Typically, that would occur in high-barrier-to-entry markets where they are not going to find a new site or a better site, and they have no other option,” Rose said.

Land is available in the Leesburg area, but the Shoppes of Lake Village sits in a prime location – at the controlled intersection of busy Highway 441 and Lakes Boulevard with Lake Square Mall to the west and the Lakes at Leesburg retirement community to the north.

In documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Publix said it opened four replacement supermarkets in the first six months of 2019, among 13 stores overall, and 78 supermarkets were remodeled.

The state’s largest supermarket chain – and most popular, according to polls – had 1,211 stores at the end of 2018, with 798 of them in Florida.

Publix and its engineers did not indicate how much the reconstruction would cost. Lake County filings indicate Lake Village Station LLC, a division of Phillips Edison, paid $8.4 million for the shopping plaza in 2018.

Hiscutt & Associates of Alpharetta, Ga. is the architect, with Evergreen Design Group of Boca Raton handling landscaping. Lowndes Engineering of Grayson, Ga. is the structural engineer.

Roberds Consulting Engineers of Atlanta is the electrical engineer. EBI Surveying of Tampa has prepared a boundary and topographical survey of the site. ECS Florida of Orlando performed a geotechnical investigation and prepared a Phase 1 environmental assessment.

New construction projects in central Florida must routinely apply to the St. Johns River Water Management District for environmental permits. Since the Publix project will utilize the existing drainage system “without having any negative effects” – in fact, the new construction will actually reduce the total impervious area of the site — Bohler Engineering asked the water management district in its June 30 filing for “a minor modification” of its existing permit. That permit was issued in 1984.

Leesburg planning chief Miller said reducing the impervious area is “a good thing.”

He said city staff has a “really good relationship” with the Phillips Edison team, which also owns a Publix store in Clermont. “We’re sure they will do a fine job bringing that up to Publix’s standards,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll carry through and do a nice job on it.”

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