Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Publix Rises Where Dilapidated Center Stood; Groundbreaking Celebrates Construction and the End of a Neptune Beach Eyesore

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

New Publix Rises Where Dilapidated Center Stood; Groundbreaking Celebrates Construction and the End of a Neptune Beach Eyesore

Article excerpt

Byline: DREW DIXON

NEPTUNE BEACH - With piles of demolition rubble as a backdrop, dignitaries gathered Wednesday for the groundbreaking of a new shopping center that replaces a dilapidated complex that has marred the city's image for a half decade.

"I'm pleased to see this finally come to closure," said Mayor Harriet Pruette at the ceremony for Seminole Shoppes in the 600 block of Atlantic Boulevard. "I think people are wanting to see this developed. It's needed redevelopment for a long time."

A new 56,000-square-foot Publix grocery store will anchor the shopping center that was once home to a Scotty's, Food Lion and a clothing outlet store. Demolition of the previous building began in October and was still evident during the ceremony.

The site was once considered for a Walmart, but public backlash, a protracted legal battle with the city and slumping economy led Wal-Mart to scrap its plans for the Supercenter.

Pruette said the city was worried about bringing new businesses to the stores that left long ago. The buildings had slipped into decay and were attracting criminal activity.

"A lot of us are glad to see it go away," Pruette said. "It was costing the city staff time to deal with it. It was back and forth."

The Publix development is a welcome sight, said Sandy Golding, president of Beaches Watch, a citizens' activist group that monitors development east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

"We had a lot of members of Beaches Watch that were very concerned about a Walmart coming in here," Golding said. "I think this is great. I think that Publix is going to be a good neighbor."

It will take about a year to build the new Publix. Another Publix three blocks to the west in Atlantic Beach will remain open until the new grocery store opens. When the old store closes, it could leave another vacant building at the Beaches.

Publix Regional Director Alan Thomas said his company chose the new Neptune Beach site because the older store in Atlantic Beach is smaller and needs renovations. …

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