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Here's an update on the eagerly awaited Publix stores planned for downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg

Construction is moving forward on two of the most eagerly awaited Publix stores in Tampa Bay.

Publix has officially signed a lease for a downtown Tampa location at the corner of E. Twiggs Street and N. Meridian Avenue, as part of a new residential development with Mercury Advisors. The grocery will likely break ground on Oct. 7, said Brian West, spokesman for Publix. Mercury Advisors announced in December that a 37,600-square-foot Publix would be part of the 21-story apartment tower known as the Channel Club development, but West said Publix did not officially sign a lease with the developer until recently.

Publix will fill a void for a much needed urban grocery store in the Channel District when it opens next year.

Construction also continues on a Publix store set to open in downtown St. Petersburg on Central Avenue. The 30,000-square-foot Publix, which is smaller than a traditional store, will open as part of the 700 Central residential project which will bring hundreds of new apartments including the Hermitage, an eight-story building with 348 rentals, to St. Petersburg. The grocery store will likely open early in 2017, West said.

The store will have a three-level parking garage above it. It is part of a center being developed by the ARC Group. It's just a few blocks from a Publix at 250 Third St. S, another store that is pocket-sized compared to most, at 29,000 square feet.

Contract Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com. Follow@SunBizGriffin.

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