Saturday, April 23, 2022

Former Albertsons #4301 - Clearwater, FL (Gulf to Bay) - UPDATE

Photo courtesy of duckman66

Albertsons #4301
2170 Gulf to Bay Boulevard, Clearwater, FL

     Albertsons #4301 - the store that started it all in Florida. From its debut as Florida's first Albertsons store on October 9, 1974 until its closure in May 2015, this building was an unsung monument to Florida's supermarket history. Sadly, old #4301 didn't make the cut to become one of the stores Albertsons would remodel and convert into Safeway come 2016, but the fact this store lasted until 2015 was impressive enough. I think it's even more impressive that Albertsons' very first Floridian location happened to be one of the very last to survive in the state too, this store witnessing the entire rise and later downfall of the Albertsons brand in Florida. The last time we saw store #4301 on the blog was back in 2015, when a number of contributors sent in photos of the store during its closure. As you'd expect quite a bit of change has happened here at the site of Florida's original Albertsons store in the 7 years since we last checked on it, so let's get ourselves caught up on the future of this building in today's post:

Photo courtesy of Retail Solutions Advisors

     Albertsons #4301 was built at the busy intersection of SR 60 (Gulf to Bay Boulevard - one of the main east-west thoroughfares in Pinellas County) and Belcher Road (a main north-south arterial). Even with the prime location, and the fact that such a large piece of commercial real estate is hard to come by in Pinellas County anymore (as the county is essentially built-out), it's hard to believe the old Albertsons sat vacant until 2018, when it was announced that Lucky's Market would be anchoring a redevelopment of the site. As part of the redevelopment plan, the old Albertsons building would be subdivided, giving Lucky's half of the building's original footprint, with some smaller storefronts occupying the remaining half of the former Albertsons building.

Photo courtesy of the Tampa Bay Business Journal

     In 2019, construction began on the building's remodel. The building was stripped to its steel core and practically rebuilt, totally transforming the 45 year old building for its new life. Work began with constructing the smaller storefronts on the right side of the building, with construction then proceeding to build-out the Lucky's Market half of the building.

Photo courtesy of P. Shanahan

     While the remodel of the right side of the building was going along smoothly, things hit a huge snag when Lucky's Market declared bankruptcy in January 2020, following Kroger's sudden retraction of their investment in the company. Without Kroger's financial support, Lucky's was crippled, and the company's huge Floridian empire that was in the works was left to collapse. We've explored the woes of Lucky's Market many times in the past on the blog, and you can check out this post if you need a quick refresher on the situation.

Photo courtesy of P. Shanahan

     Lucky's declaration of bankruptcy in January 2020 effectively canceled the plans for all new stores that were in the works, including locations where construction was already in progress. As you'd imagine, trying to abruptly end a construction project isn't an easy thing, especially once all the agreements for the project are made and the landlord is expecting you as the anchor tenant. The company in charge of the Albertsons building redevelopment opened a lawsuit against Kroger in April 2020, seeking damages for the loss of the project's anchor tenant.

Photo courtesy of P. Shanahan

     At the time of Lucky's collapse, their portion of the former Albertsons building was over halfway complete, with a grand opening date for the new Lucky's already established for April 29, 2020. Now the developer was left with a partially complete anchor space, unpaid services, and a huge delay to the project. From the article I linked before, the lawsuit filed by the developer specifically sought damages as follows:

"Kroger, which had invested in Lucky’s in 2016, “unconditionally guaranteed” all of Lucky’s obligations under the lease, the lawsuit said.

But in late December [2019], as the Clearwater project entered a critical phase of construction, Kroger ended its investment in Lucky’s and Lucky’s issued a stop order to the general contractor on the Clearwater project. The work stoppage left the roof, walls and floors unfinished and exposed, the lawsuit said. Lucky’s said it would secure the property but had not done so by April 1, when the lawsuit was filed.

A month later, on Jan. 22, the general contractor, Snyder Construction, filed a lien against the property, asking for nearly $902,000 for unpaid labor, services and materials.

In the lawsuit, Gulf to Bay is demanding judgment against Kroger for breach of its guarantee. Gulf to Bay is asking the court to order Kroger to complete the construction of the project and obtain unconditional lien waivers from all contractors, suppliers and manufacturers involved with it.

“A substantial threat of irreparable injury to Gulf to Bay exists if Kroger is not required to perform Lucky’s non-monetary obligations under the lease,” the lawsuit said.

Gulf to Bay also is asking for an unspecified amount of monetary damages and said it asserts a right to assert a claim against Lucky’s in bankruptcy court."

Photo courtesy of St. Pete Catalyst

     By the time that lawsuit was filed, the building appeared as it did in the above image. Construction on the smaller storefronts was all but complete, but the Lucky's space was left as a giant incomplete hole in the building. While the redevelopment appeared to be held up in legal limbo, some good news about this project was released in late 2021. While I don't know what ever happened with the litigation brought against Kroger for the Lucky's debacle, the developer did manage to attract Aldi as the new grocery anchor for the project. 

Photo courtesy of Retail Solutions Advisors

     The above rendering just shows Aldi's logo slapped onto Lucky's facade, but I think it gets the point across. While Aldi did acquire the leases to a handful of former Lucky's stores at the company's bankruptcy auction, Aldi did pick up a few additional leases after the fact, Clearwater being one of them (and Cape Coral, another partially built location, being another).

Photo courtesy of Retail Solutions Advisors

     Aldi will be taking the entirety of Lucky's planned space, per the rendering of the redevelopment above (and from that rendering, you can also see how the old Albertsons building was split up). Now that Aldi has joined the project, they've since commenced with construction on their store, finishing out the shell left behind by Lucky's.

     Finally getting around to my photos, that's where we find the project at the moment. As of my visit to the site of former Albertsons #4301 in early 2022, the new Aldi was still in the early stages of construction. Aldi has stripped back some of the facade built by Lucky's to reconfigure it to their own liking, and the inside of the building was still a stripped-out shell. Aldi is expected to open this new store later in 2022, finally bringing an end to this three-year-long redevelopment mess.

     While I never made it to the original Floridian Albertsons store while it was still open, at least I can now say I've made my pilgrimage to the site of it! It certainly would have been more fun to see this building while it still retained some elements from Albertsons, but if nothing else, at least the building was kept instead of being totally flattened, so there's still something original to see here.

     Beyond the future Aldi space, we find the row of smaller storefronts that occupies the right half of the former Albertsons building. As of when this post went live, I've only found record of one of these smaller spaces having a confirmed new tenant, that being the space immediately adjacent to the new Aldi store. Moving into that 3,800 square foot space will be a medical office called Paragon Infusion Center, while all the other storefronts are still up for lease. With Aldi coming in as the new anchor by the end of the year, and a frozen custard restaurant being developed on an outparcel, hopefully some of the other spaces will begin to fill up too.

     It was interesting the way the old Albertsons building was divided up, with these storefronts running along the front of the building, and then a few more running along the back right side. The front facing spaces are the higher-visibility spots right next to the anchor, while the spaces in the back are more hidden from view.

     Peeking inside the corner storefront, we find zero trace of Albertsons. Albertsons' side entrance and liquor store would have been in the area of this space's back wall.

     Turning the corner, we find those last 4 storefronts around the side of the building. It looks like three of the four are visible in this photo.

     The morning sun glare wasn't helping me much with these last few images, but here's an overview of the right side of the building as it looks now, as seen from the back.

     Actually, the back of the building is (for the time being) the only thing left that still looks mostly like it did when Albertsons was here. Albertsons old loading docks are visible at the far right side of the image, and were still painted the original yellow color Albertsons was too.

     Curse that sun glare! Anyway, there was some work going on here by the loading docks, but it appeared this part of the building was going to remain mostly original from the Albertsons days. Aldi will be inheriting Albertsons' old loading docks, with only some small modifications being made back here.

     The left side of the building was in the process of receiving some new paint and stone work when I was here, and was still a work-in-progress.

     Returning to the front of the building, we've complete our loop around former Albertsons #4301, seeing it as it transitions into its new life as an Aldi and adjoining shopping center.

     While we're here, before I finish up this little update post, we'll take a quick look at the building next door to the old Albertsons. Pictured here is that building, as seen from the front corner of the old Albertsons store.

     Much like what happened with the Albertsons next door, the building here was subdivided and transformed into a new shopping center, striping away all traces of this building's former life as a Kmart. Originally built at Kmart #3476, this Kmart location opened on April 26, 1979, and remained in operation until 2005, when Kmart's new parent company Sears Holdings chose this store to be one of many throughout the country to be converted into the new Sears Essentials format. While the concept of Sears Essentials had some merit to it, like most ideas contrived by Sears Holdings, they turned it into a flop. While the last of the Sears Essentials stores closed in 2012, the Clearwater store was an earlier casualty, closing for good in 2009. The old Kmart building sat empty until 2016, when the redevelopment that brought Bealls, LA Fitness, and West Marine to the property occurred.

     All these new stores opened in 2018, and the redevelopment of the old Kmart probably helped spur the development of the old Albertsons next door too, cleaning up this corner and bringing some new retail to the area.

     After many years of Kmart and Albertsons sitting here at the corner of Gulf to Bay and Belcher, we now find Bealls, West Marine, LA Fitness, and Aldi. All those stores join the already established Publix and Walmart Neighborhood Market across the street, bringing a full assortment of retail back to this corner again. Thinking about it now, it's not common to see an intersection in Florida with three grocery stores still on it like we'll have here again once Aldi opens. While Aldi is certainly a different experience than the Lucky's Market that was supposed to open here, at least this intersection will continue to offer a little supermarket variety for the people of Clearwater for years to come!

     With April coming to an end, we'll switch back to my regular every-other-week posting schedule for May. After a month of me posting every week, I'll give everyone a break for our first post of May coming up next time. The Sing Oil Blogger returns to AFB with another guest post to start off the new month, so be sure to come back next week to see where his travels take us this time!

So until the post after next,

The Albertsons Florida Blogger


  1. It's interesting to get a look at the first Albertsons in Florida! Just as the first Houston Albertsons was turned into a Krogertsons, which it still is today, it looks like the first Florida Albertsons was going to be turned into a Krogertsons of the Lucky sorts until the luck ran out! Oh well, while that was probably a big headache for the developer and the local community, I think things will work out for the best with Aldi moving in. As we've discussed before, it seems that Floridians have embraced Aldi and so that store might end up doing better than Lucky's Market ever could have done. An Aldi is no Albertsons, of course, but it's better than nothing.

    Sears Essentials was a bit of an odd concept. It seemed like a way to give new life to some tired Kmart locations while also associating themselves with the probably more-respected Sears name, but perhaps the store was not Sears enough for Sears shoppers and not Kmart enough for Kmart shoppers. At least the stores that survived the return to Kmart did end up with some renovations, but this store didn't make it that far. Like what will happen with the Albertsons, at least the building is living a productive second life.

    I notice that the Publix across the street from here has an Office Depot next to it! I guess it's one-stop shopping for people who want an all-Florida shopping experience! It also appears that Pollo Tropical is alive and well in the old Kmart shopping center. Pollo Tropical was one of those brands that came to Houston with quite a few locations in new buildings, but then failed in pretty spectacular fashion. I don't know how long they were here, but it seemed like their stay in Houston made Albertsons' stay in Houston seem long! Oh well, the spectacular failure of a retailer/fast food place in Houston is hardly anything new. I guess it's hardly anything new in Florida either at least when it comes to Kroger concepts!

    1. It would have been more fun to see this place is mostly original form, but at least I made it here! I'm glad Aldi jumped in and managed to take over the grocery anchor space in this redevelopment, as some of the other unfinished Lucky's stores are still sitting out there in various forms of limbo. Aldi is a great fit for these old Lucky's building though, as their stores are basically the same size, and Aldi seems to do pretty brisk business around here. Aldi will bring plenty of options to this corner for groceries, with Publix and Walmart already here.

      I've been to Sears Essentials many times when they were around, and it was really no different than a Kmart outside of carrying a larger selection of Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances. The much nicer Sears Grand concept was much better executed (as those were new-build locations built by Sears before Eddie came along), but when Eddie came into the picture, he botched that up too. Sears Essentials was merely a cheap version of Sears Grand, and didn't seem to do much to turn things around.

      Pollo Tropical was founded in Florida (Miami specifically), and they do really well here. Their expansions outside of Florida haven't gone well from what I understand, and I believe Pollo Tropical has retracted to be a Florida-only chain now.

  2. I like how you used “pilgrimage” to describe your trip to this site; it seems very fitting! It is amazing what developers can do to transform a 1974 supermarket into the shopping center it is today. Most people won’t ever realize that their new Aldi will have so many ghosts of past retailers present at its grand opening! I am glad that Aldi was able to salvage this building, and it also was probably better for them that Lucky’s didn’t get very far on this project. It is also cool to see how well the Kmart redevelopment turned out!

    LOL, I can’t wait to see what we have in store for the next post . . .

    1. As the "Albertsons Florida Blogger", it only makes sense that I found my way to the site where it all began in Florida at some point!

      About all that was left of the old Albertsons building was the block shell - just about everything else is brand new, and the building looks like it was built brand new in the 2020's too. You have to have a very sharp eye to know the structure itself dates back to the 1970's! Aldi lucked out only having to build out the interior, as Lucky's provided the structure for them.

  3. In Brandon, Florida, the old Kmart (my dad said in 1974 it was a Kmart and a Big Star), Lucky was supposed to be in the old Kmart (with Crunch Fitness, HomeCentric and Beal's Outlet). However, Luckys' space is still vacant. The old Big Star is now Chuck E.Chees and smaller stores.

    1. The redevelopment of the Brandon Kmart was another project that got hit hard with the Lucky's failure, and is one of the ones that hasn't been lucky enough to find a new tenant for the space Lucky's left behind. Hopefully something will take that space someday.