Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Next Chapter Begins - Former Albertsons #4466 - Port St. Lucie, FL

Former Albertsons #4466/Walmart Neighborhood Market #7299
902 SW St. Lucie West Boulevard, Port St. Lucie, FL - Cashmere Corners
(For the record, Albertsons' address was 900 SW St. Lucie West Blvd.)

     And now, the highly anticipated conclusion to the story of the St. Lucie West Albertsons...

     Way back when, I remember one time when I was in this store. I was standing near the pharmacy counter for some reason, just looking around. Even back before I started this blog, I knew Albertsons wasn't in a good place. I looked around and thought to myself, if anything ever happened to the mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons and it did close like many of the other Albertsons stores were around the state, what would eventually move into this space? Even though everyone thought of this store as indestructible back then, I knew "it" was going to happen eventually. So, it was then that I made my prediction of what the fate of the St. Lucie West Albertsons would be when the store closed. And I couldn't have been any more wrong as to who the new occupant would be (I would have never guessed Walmart back then!). My original prediction was that this store would be split between an Aldi and Big Lots after Albertsons left (although you have to give me some credit - Aldi did eventually build a new store across the street from here!).

     Not that some goofy prediction I made nearly 6 years ago means anything, but that was just my thought process back then. As I've mentioned many times in the past, the mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons finally conceded on June 9, 2012 when Albertsons cut their Florida presence from 17 stores down to 4, after a rather strong (yet somewhat short) 12 years in business. This store then sat empty from the time Albertsons closed in 2012 until June 2015, when Walmart announced that they would be opening a new Neighborhood Market in the majority of the former Albertsons space, after their original plans to open a Neighborhood Market on a vacant lot across the street fell through. After 9 months of construction, the new St. Lucie West Walmart Neighborhood Market held its grand opening on March 2, 2016. Even though I knew that not much from Albertsons would remain once Walmart opened, I was still curious to see the final product. Before I get too far into this post, if you would like more background on the St. Lucie West Albertsons, you can check out the two posts I did of this store previously, from back when it was still abandoned and from when Walmart first began construction, by clicking the appropriate links.

     While it looks like Walmart didn't do too much to the exterior of this store, they actually did a whole lot! Even though the archway over the entrance looks exactly like the one Albertsons had, it's actually brand new, and shifted over to the right from where the original arch was. Walmart essentially built an exact replica of an early 2000's Albertsons exterior for their new entryway, which I still find pretty odd, but it serves as a fitting tribute to the building's past. At the very end of this post you'll be able to see the how the arches from Walmart and Albertsons are not the same.

     Before heading inside, Walmart had a stack of these maps right inside the front door showing the layout of the new store. If you're familiar with Walmart Neighborhood Markets, this is essentially the exact same floorplan Walmart has been using for most Neighborhood Markets built since the dawn of the Project Impact era (this floorplan also has a mirrored version as well, which is what we saw at the Walmart Neighborhood Market built at the site of former Albertsons #4323 in South Orlando). Ready to see the inside of this place?

     Like I said before, just about every trace of Albertsons and its old Theme Park/Grocery Palace interior has been stripped away for Walmart to essentially rebuild the interior of this place from scratch. As far as Walmart interiors go, I will say the new Walmart Neighborhood Market look is much nicer compared to the old "Cheap Impact" version that has finally been phased out. This new look for the Neighborhood Markets was rolled out at the same time Walmart rolled out their new "Black Decor 2.0" for the Supercenters. Both of these new Walmart decors are Walmart's attempt to bring more a more modern feel and features to their stores after 8 years of Project Impact, which has finally run its course. 

     You immediately walk into the Produce department when you first enter the store. This picture also gives a glimpse at what the new Neighborhood Market department signage looks like. Behind this wall is an unused 10,000 square foot portion of the former Albertsons that Walmart didn't want. The unused portion of the former Albertsons was home to the deli, produce, and bakery departments. I don't know what will eventually become of that space, but it is currently for lease. The only access into that space right now must be though the back of the building, because out front the only opening into that space was occupied by a windowless fire exit door that can't be opened from the outside. 

     Moving along into the back left corner of the store, home to the deli, bakery, and pizzeria (more on the pizzeria shortly). This Neighborhood Market actually had a decent sized deli and a fully functional bakery, unlike the extremely tiny deli and non-existent bakery at the South Orlando store I mentioned earlier.

     The decor for the deli/bakery/pizzeria is essentially the same as what used in the Supercenter's "Black Decor 2.0", except the department symbols aren't used in the Neighborhood Markets. However, a deli department in this building just doesn't feel the same without a giant spinning fiberglass chef above it. Anyway, the Pizzeria is another new feature that Walmart has recently rolled out. It's a special department where they offer a variety of freshly made take-and-bake pizzas, which you can buy either pre-made from the case out front, or have one custom made by the attendant behind the counter. They actually looked pretty decent too. This department is a good way for Walmart to offer something in the fresh/prepared foods area without having to do anything too elaborate or gourmet.

     The back wall of the store. This is looking from approximately where the old Meat and Seafood counter was toward the Meats & Poultry alcove and Frozen Foods. If you're slightly confused about how this store was laid out back in the Albertsons days, the original post of this store featured a diagram of Albertsons' original layout, which you can view here

     Honestly, the only part of Walmart's layout that matches up with Albertsons' old layout is the location of the Meats department. Albertsons' Meats department was located in an alcove where Walmart's current Meat cases are.

     Walmart's Frozen Foods aisle, which lacks a cheese grater style ceiling with the typical pieces missing from it.

     This center aisle runs the entire length of the grocery department. This was taken looking toward the left side of the store.

     Looking across the front from near the pharmacy.

     Walmart's pharmacy is located in Albertsons' old pet department.

     The main aisle that divides the grocery aisles from the general merchandise departments. The general merchandise aisles are oriented perpendicular to the grocery aisles to give the two parts of the store their own feel. 

     Looking down the right side wall toward the back corner. The majority of the General Merchandise departments are located in Albertsons' old Frozen Foods department. 

     A typical General Merchandise aisle.

     The Pet department in the back right corner, originally home to Albertsons' dairy department/alcove. Unlike most Theme Park/Grocery Palace Albertsons, this store never got the decorative barn piece for the dairy department, the only piece from the deluxe version of that interior this store never got. In exchange for not getting the barn, the dairy department was stuffed in a weird dark alcove behind frozen foods.

     Although Walmart-ified, this fire exit door is the only thing in this place that remains from Albertsons. This door was located on the right side wall where the dairy alcove transitioned into Frozen Foods.

     Heading back up front to the "Pickup & Service" counter. The bright orange pickup counter has also invaded the Neighborhood Markets as well, it seems. Also, that fire door in the background also remains from Albertsons. That door was located at the end of a hallway located in front of the registers, between the old Video Department and the mysterious unused cafe that sat empty for practically as long as Albertsons was open (although this store did have a Starbucks kiosk near the front entrance when it first opened).

     Walmart's registers. Something new Walmart has rolled out with the new Neighborhood Market decor is that instead of using register lights, they instead use signs that the cashier flips to read either "Open" or "Closed", probably to save money on energy by not using a lightbulb. Interestingly, Albertsons had a similar system in place at this store in the early 2000's, where the cashiers had a sign they had to flip to say "Open" or "Closed" taped to the back of the old register monitors.

     Heading back outside to the front walkway. This is the only area that Walmart didn't touch during their renovation.

     And as was mentioned in the Update post on this store from September 2015, the old Albertsons Liquor store was torn down so Walmart could install a drive-thru lane for their pharmacy.

     The photo above shows what the current pharmacy drive-thru lane looked like when the liquor store was still standing.

     This Albertsons also had an Albertsons Express Gas Station as well. The above photo shows the gas station in its current form as a Walmart Gas Station and Convenience store, and below as the abandoned Albertsons Express, what had already gone through two failed independent ownerships as a Citgo and then a Texaco after Albertsons sold it off around 2008.

     Even with all the change that has happened here over the last few months, I got a few surprise photos of this store from AFB contributor William S. a while back showing the St. Lucie West Albertsons back when it was still open!

     William sent in these three photos of the Albertsons in happier times. Well, it wasn't too happy of a time for the Albertsons, as these photos were taken on May 10, 2012 during the store's liquidation. But it still gives us a quick glimpse of the store.

     So as time moves on, the mighty St. Lucie West Albertsons finds its new life as a Walmart Neighborhood Market. It would have been interesting to see what Albertsons would have done to this place had it survived into the transition from Albertsons to Safeway. 

     So with this post, the saga of the St. Lucie West Albertsons is complete. Let's take a moment to have one final look at the store back in its original form. If you compare the above photo of the abandoned Albertsons to the one of this store as a Walmart, you'll be able to tell that the front arches are different and in different places. 

     While the old St. Lucie West Albertsons is gone with most traces of its existence wiped away by Walmart, it sure won't be forgotten, as it's legacy will continue to live on here on AFB. 

So until the next time,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger 


  1. The Pizzeria seems pretty similar to the Pizza bar that Harris Teeter is supposed to add to their store in Fernandina Beach.

    Speaking of Walmart, I do have quite an interesting specimen in my area. It's kind of surreal seeing it this way, considering how Walmart operates. It's not uncommon, but then again, it isn't really common that you see one of this type, either. All I will say is that it does have to do with Walmart's recent news.

    1. From what I understand, supermarket pizzerias are pretty popular. The only store near me to have one is, of all places, Winn-Dixie (a 2012 remodeled location). I'd like to see that HT in Fernandina Beach someday, as it sounds like an interesting store.

      I think I know what you're getting at there...

    2. About the Harris Teeter:

      If I'm assuming your location correctly, It would take close to three hours of driving to get to the Harris Teeter up in Fernandina Beach. It's doable, but if you dislike driving for long periods of time, it wouldn't be worth it to go. If you ever do go, be prepared to see some high prices. (Even compared to Publix, which outside of Florida is seen as high priced)

      The nearest Kroger, in Waycross, GA would be almost four hours away.

      As for the Walmart, I'll say this:

      Project Impact, Small Format Supercenter, 2011.

      And Google Street view has documentation of it as well; Pretty fast when you consider how long ago it actually happened.

    3. If I were to go the the Fernandina Beach Harris Teeter, I would do it as a part of a trip documenting some places around Jacksonville (as it's only about a 45 minutes away from central Jacksonville). I wouldn't go up there just to go to Harris Teeter and turn around. I've heard about HT's pricing reputation as well (although I didn't think it would be that extreme).

  2. I still find it weird that Walmart decided to essentially replicate the old Albertsons exterior design, but as you said, it'll act as a fitting tribute from here on out! And while it's sad to see the Theme Park/Plaza décor gone, at least this store got the new Walmart décor, which I have to say looks pretty good. Plus, in a way I'm glad Walmart took over this space: I'd rather see empty retail reused instead of pointless new center built directly across the street. I'm sure the Walmart and its gas station are helping to bring some new life to this center!

    The open/closed register signs have been in place in my local Sam's Club for a while, so I'm with you that they're cost cutting, which I'm all for - IF it produces an okay-looking result (so in other words, I'm still not forgiving them for Cheap Impact, haha!). And those bonus photos of the Albertsons while it was still open are a nice treat!

    1. The only thing I can think of is that the landlord wasn't thrilled about Walmart changing the facade to current Neighborhood Market prototype, and forced them to keep the Albertsons look to not throw off the design of the rest of the plaza. Either that or they knew altering the exterior would give a certain blogger one more thing to complain about! The new Neighborhood Market interior is much nicer than Cheap Impact. If I walked in here and saw Cheap Impact, I probably would have just walked right back out. Your new Walmart in Horn Lake missed out on the new interior by only a month or two, which is disappointing.

      Most of the reason the shopping center across the street was shot down was because people in the immediate area thought it was pointless to have another new plaza when the one across the street was practically empty due to Albertsons' closure. For a while, it seemed like nobody had any interest in the old Albertsons. Had Walmart come out with their plans in early 2012, the new plaza would have more than likely been approved.

      My only complaint about this new Neighborhood Market interior are those register signs. It's not the manual operation that bothers me, but the design they chose just looks cheap. I think they could have came up with a nicer looking design than the cardboard squares to achieve the same result. I'm surprised the new Supercenter version of this interior doesn't implement a similar system.

      Those pictures of this store still open were a nice surprise indeed! On of my biggest regrets in regard to the blog was not getting any pictures of this place when it was still open, when I had a few opportunities to do so. Oh well I suppose.

    2. I know :( I did see on one flickr page though that a new supercenter that opened the same day actually had the new décor, which I really can't explain. I know the Horn Lake store was in development for several years, but stories I've heard to that extent involved the exterior design remaining as drafted to begin with, not the interior!

      I'm glad it worked out the way it did then! Good for the residents for having some common sense regarding this.

      Good points there. I suppose with Walmart we can't expect too much though, lol! I think this Neighborhood Market look is actually better quality-wise than the black décor 2.0, as while the latter looks cool, it's just as flat and lifeless as the Cheap Impact signs :/ But I'm trying not to let those complaints get in the way of my liking something that looks completely different from Project Impact, lol!

      I feel you. But you've done a great job in keeping up with this store since! :)

    3. Trying to explain Walmart is like trying to explain Kroger or Albertsons: Once you think you understand them, they do something really strange that puts you back to not knowing. While changing the exterior plans might have been more difficult, if Walmart wanted to put in the new decor I couldn't have seen it being too big of a challenge, unless they already had the old signs made way back when and ready to go. Think of it this way: The Horn Lake Walmart could have been the very last new Walmart to open with Project Impact! The Black Decor in the promotional video Walmart made makes it look nicer that what it probably is. Typically the Neighborhood Market interiors were pretty similar to the Supercenter versions, just different colors for the most part. I wonder why Walmart decided to go in completely different directions with the two now.

      Thanks! At least I got those pictures of this store back when it was abandoned, and still looking pretty much the same as it did when it was open. It's almost as good as seeing it alive.

    4. The funny thing is, the store has what I believe to be the newest exterior design :P But that's a good way to think about the décor reasoning, so thanks! I'm thinking maybe the idea behind different looks is to give the two brands separate identities. Not sure why that'd be necessary though...

      You're welcome! I agree.

  3. The arches are completely rebuilt, if you compare the shots from Google Earth (and this is even supported by the pictures), the "arch" is a little closer to the right side of the store.

    1. I didn't realize Google updated their imagery of the area. Walmart's current entrance is located where Albertsons' old exit was.

  4. Another likely reason for reusing the old entrance design was for ease of passing planning and zoning requirements. In many cities, it is difficult to make significant exterior modifications to a building without getting city approval. By simply shifting the entrance, Walmart's modifications would likely just be considered a minor renovation vs. a major redesign which would attract more scrutiny.

    1. That's probably the most likely reason for this. I believe the St. Lucie West subdivision has strict rules regulating what buildings can look like, so this was probably the easier route rather than trying to go through with a new exterior. Walmart rebuilt that arch all the way down to the finest details of the old one.

  5. I was hoping it would be this one from your teaser last week!

    1. Yep, it was the mighty St. Lucie West...Walmart Neighborhood Market. Last time I was in Vero (although this was a few weeks ago now), nothing has happened yet at the old Albertsons there in regard to it becoming a Walmart Neighborhood Market. I have a feeling that one will be flattened when the time comes for construction to start though.