TAMPA — Forget the rumors. Trader Joe's is definitely planning to build a grocery store along Swann Avenue near Dale Mabry Highway.
A variance request filed with the city of Tampa says Centennial American Properties is in the process of permitting and constructing a Trader Joe's store at 3808 W Swann Ave. The site is home to Shapes, a women's-only gym.
The request marks the first time city documents have referred to Trader Joe's by its full name at that address. Previous architectural drawings referred to the project as TJ-Tampa and showed a "Tenant Sign" in the Hawaiian-style letter widely use by Trader Joe's.
The developer is seeking a variance to more than double the amount of signage approved for the 1-acre site. The proposal calls for four signs — one on each side of the building — totaling 299 square feet. City code allows for 134 square feet based on the building's proposed 12,301 square footage.
"(I)t is expected that Trader Joe's will attract customers who are not familiar with the South Tampa area," states the request. "This makes the visibility of signage a critical component to Trader Joe's development and success."
The issue is scheduled to go to the Variance Review Board at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13.
The developer said three additional signs were needed because efforts had failed to buy the adjacent corner site facing Dale Mabry. That property previously housed Berryism yogurt and Pipe World and appears slated to become South Beach Tanning Co., according to signs posted some time ago.
More signage would also help drivers better locate Trader Joe's without having to slow down or impede traffic on busy Dale Mabry, the proposal said.
The property owners have denied a Trader Joe's is headed to the site, and California-based Trader Joe's has not commented on potential locations.
However, members of Shapes said they were told a few weeks ago that the gym is closing and many of the fitness classes have been canceled. Members were told their memberships might be transferred to an equivalent gym, but there is no women's-only facility in the area that has a pool.
The gym owners have said nothing is certain about a deal with Trader Joe's. A closing date has not been announced but could come later this month. So far, memberships have not been refunded.
The highly anticipated Trader's Joe's would be the first for the Tampa Bay area. The nearest, in Sarasota, opened in September. The grocer sells gourmet fresh and frozen food, many of it under its own label at prices cheaper than other name brands.
Susan Thurston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 225-3110.