Save-A-Lot will open at former Eckerd drug store in Largo

The former Eckerd store sits on the corner of West Bay Drive and Clearwater-Largo Road.

Times files (2006)

The former Eckerd store sits on the corner of West Bay Drive and Clearwater-Largo Road.

Except for a seasonal Halloween superstore, the former Eckerd drug store on West Bay Drive and Clearwater-Largo Road sat virtually shuttered for four years.

Now, Save-A-Lot plans to open a grocery on the site, possibly by the end of the year.

Save-A-Lot expects to spend about $360,000 to convert the 11,200-square-foot building into a grocery, a weekly report by the city said. Most of the changes are minor and include the installation of coolers and freezers, said city community development director Carol Stricklin.

One element of the storefront's long-term vacancy is a bit complicated.

The property is owned by St. Petersburg developer the Sembler Co., which has a lease with Eckerd. That lease was assumed by CVS, which bought Eckerd stores in Florida and Texas.

The Sembler Co. wasn't actively involved in marketing the space because CVS has the lease and makes timely payments, said Greg Sembler, chief executive officer of the company.

"We agreed to acknowledge Save-A-Lot's tenancy because we wanted to see the building occupied," Sembler said.

Save-A-Lot spokeswoman Maureen E. Shannon wouldn't comment on this particular store, but said in an e-mail that Save-A-Lot is always looking for viable locations. The bargain, limited assortment grocery chain operates nearly 1,200 stores nationwide, according to the company's Web site.

The city has been tracking the retail market, which is generally weak, and "grocery uses are pretty strong," Stricklin said.

A Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market recently replaced a former Kash n' Karry in the Barclay Square shopping center on Walsingham Road. And, in September, Publix plans to open a revamped grocery at the site of a former Albertsons at East Bay and Belcher Road, according to the company's Web site.

The former Eckerd is in one of Largo's downtown redevelopment areas. So, ultimately, the city of Largo would like to see the site at 100 Clearwater-Largo Road redeveloped as a mixed use project.

Commissioner Harriet Crozier would rather see the site redeveloped to fit the city's vision. But, she said, "I'm glad that it's not going to be vacant for a while."

Commissioner Woody Brown is confident that Save-A-Lot's tenancy won't ruin redevelopment possibilities in the future. An attractive offer will likely be made when someone wants to redevelop the property, he said.

"I'm just curious where the Halloween store's going to go right now," Brown said.

Save-A-Lot will open at former Eckerd drug store in Largo 08/29/09 [Last modified: Saturday, August 29, 2009 5:30am]

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