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Publix to uproot from Seminole Mall, plant itself nearby

SEMINOLE — Publix plans to move its Seminole Mall store across the street to the former Albertsons.

The move will come after the former Albertsons is remodeled, Publix spokeswoman Maria Braus said Thursday.

It is unclear when that might be, she said. The timing depends on the amount of work that needs to be done and the time it will take to obtain the necessary permits to start revamping the store.

Braus said shoppers will see no interruption in service. When it comes time to move, the Seminole Mall store will close and simply open the next day in the new spot.

This is the second time Publix has said it intends to move from a mall or shopping center into a standalone store. Last week, Pinellas Park officials said Publix had told them it plans to move out of the strip shopping center on the northwest corner of Park Boulevard and 49th Street to the former Albertsons on the northeast corner of that intersection.

Publix said the move would come after the former Albertsons is renovated. Pinellas Park officials said they were told renovation would likely begin after the first of the year.

Speculation about a move from Seminole Mall has been rampant since June, when Publix announced it had bought 49 of the 93 Albertsons stores in Florida for about half a billion dollars. Among them were 17 of the 22 Albertsons in the Tampa Bay area. The Seminole store was closed a few weeks ago.

The decision to move across the street will have repercussions in Seminole. Seminole Mall is within city limits; the Albertsons is not. City officials talked with Albertsons years ago about voluntarily annexing into the city, but the deal fell through because of franchise fees and utility taxes the store would have had to pay to the city. Pinellas County levies no franchise fees. With an electrical bill of about $28,000 a month, the cost was enough to make Albertsons decide not to annex.

That means Seminole stands to lose the franchise fees, utility taxes and occupational license fees the Publix is now paying. The occupational license fee is about $1,800 a year. But it's hard to know exactly how much the Publix pays in fees for its electricity. The money is remitted to the city by Progress Energy, which does not break down the total by individual company. The loss will be 12 percent of whatever the monthly electrical bill was.

For shoppers, the move could be a mixed bag. The former Albertsons is about 12,000 square feet larger than the mall Publix. That could mean a wider selection of goods and better display.

On the other hand, city officials have voiced safety concerns about seniors who live in the Gardens and Freedom Square, basically next to the mall. Freedom Square residents only have to cross the mall parking lot to reach the stores. Residents in the Gardens can easily cross a small, two-lane seldom-used street to reach the mall parking lot.

After the move, however, seniors who walk to Publix will have to contend with 113th Street, a six-lane divided highway that is one of the city's busiest thoroughfares.

"We are very concerned about that," said Doc Kinsey, president of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce. "They're really worried about it. ... They're definitely going to have to make some crosswalk or something … to keep anybody from getting hurt."

The former Albertsons sits on about 3.87 acres owned by the Wilbert R. Canning Trust of Boise, Idaho. The land has an assessed taxable value of about $4.8-million and brings in about $94,785 in property taxes to Pinellas County and other agencies, according to county records. It is unclear whether Publix plans to buy the property or continue leasing it.

The Albertsons store was built in 1977, county records show. The building has about 57,397 square feet under roof, with another 2,493 square feet from a porch, loading platform and an unfinished utility room.

Seminole Mall has about 118,012 square feet on about 36 acres, county records show. It was built in 1965. The mall was bought in 2006 by Downtown Seminole LLC for about $35.7-million. It pays a total of about $455,885 in combined property taxes. Of that, the city receives about $63,718 annually. The city will continue to receive that money.

The mall's two largest tenants are Kmart and the Publix. It is unclear what effect, if any, the loss of Publix might have on the mall. There have been rumors about major changes coming at the mall, but the owners have remained mum about their intentions.

Publix to uproot from Seminole Mall, plant itself nearby

09/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 4:24pm]
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