ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the westward growth of St. Petersburg's revitalized downtown, Publix announced Tuesday that it is opening a new grocery store on a previously moribund stretch of Central Avenue.
The pocket-sized store at 700 Central will be near hundreds of new apartments, including the Hermitage, an eight-story building with 348 rentals that is expected to open in 16 months.
Plans were submitted this spring showing a grocer was eyeing that site, but Publix didn't make an official announcement until Tuesday.
The store, whose opening date is unknown, will be more than 30,000 square feet, which is smaller than a more traditional Publix, and will have a three-level parking garage above it. It is part of a center being developed by the ARC Group.
It also will be just a few blocks from a Publix at 250 Third St. S, another store that is pocket-sized at 29,000 square feet.
Publix has stores close to each other in other Florida cities, including Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and even up the road on Fourth Street in St. Petersburg.
The announcement comes as competitor Walmart has been successfully filling urban areas in between its mega superstores with Neighborhood Market groceries, said Steve Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida.
"It sounds like Publix is doing something similar by looking at smaller-footprint formats, which makes it almost impossible for shoppers to go anywhere else when they'll pass two Publix stores on their way home," Kirn said. "The No. 1 reason why people choose a supermarket is convenience, which translates pretty easily to proximity."
Publix has a reputation as a savvy location planner, so the addition of another store in the downtown corridor signals the company's faith that the area is poised for more growth. The city's condo and apartment markets are booming as more people look to move downtown to be near dining and entertainment options.
"We are pleased to have Publix opening a new location soon in downtown St. Petersburg," Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement. "The Sunshine City continues to grow in new and exciting ways, and I am glad Publix recognizes the opportunities in our city and wants to be a part of that growth."
It's unclear if downtown Tampa, which has been vying for its own urban supermarket, is next on the list for Publix.
Tampa Bay Lightning owner and real estate developer Jeff Vinik has said he hopes to bring a grocer to his 40-acre urban project. He told the Tampa Bay Times in January that if a major supermarket won't commit to a opening a store downtown, he may just build one himself.
Contract Justine Griffin at email@example.com. Follow@SunBizGriffin.