Winn-Dixie #2315 / Planned Albertsons #44XX
1620 South Fiske Boulevard, Rockledge, FL - Village Green Shopping Center
Many years ago when I was first compiling my Albertsons Florida store list, I started finding record of some Albertsons stores that never made it off paper. I have a number of those planned locations recorded underneath my main Albertsons Florida store list, and always figured more planned stores would be unearthed over time. Finding record of stores that never made it past the planning process can be a bit difficult at times if public records are hard to access, or the plans never made it past the local "talk and gossip" phase. While I'm pretty sure I have record of every Albertsons store to have actually operated in Florida through the years, I felt the possibility of finding more never-built stores was still decent, considering the difficulties I just explained. However, what I wasn't expecting was finding a planned Albertsons store so close to home for me (which came really close to breaking ground, too), this long into my project of documenting the former Albertsons stores in Florida! Yes, I only discovered the story of the planned Rockledge Albertsons earlier this year, but I guess it's better late than never. I have a short post on AFB today explaining the situation around the plans and cancelation of the Rockledge Albertsons, with a sister post over on MFR that ties in with the history of this building as well. That backstory aside, let's talk more about the subject at hand:
Located at the intersection of Fiske and Barton Boulevards, the Village Green Shopping Center was prominently placed in the heart of Rockledge upon its opening in 1968. A small community shopping center, the plaza contained anchor stores Winn-Dixie and Liggett Drugs, in addition to a strip of small store fronts for additional tenants. Village Green Shopping Center did well for many years, until it was announced in 1995 that Winn-Dixie would leave Village Green in favor of a new Marketplace built a few miles south of here at the intersection of Barnes Boulevard and Murrell Road (the subject of today's companion post on MFR). Following Winn-Dixie's departure, Village Green saw a sharp decrease in traffic, the former Winn-Dixie space sitting empty for a few years as a new anchor tenant was sought out.
|Thanks Sing Oil Blogger for clipping these articles for me!|
Come 1998, a bit of hope was glimmering for the future of Village Green Shopping Center. Coming off the heels of the closure of Albertsons #4368 in Indian Harbour Beach (about 20 miles south of here), the announcement was made that Albertsons was signing on as the new grocery anchor to Village Green in Rockledge. Albertsons would have reconfigured the arrangement of the shopping center with their new store (as the new Albertsons would have been much larger than the old Winn-Dixie - around 50,000 square feet compared to the approx. 30,000 square feet the old Winn-Dixie occupied). I imagine the new Albertsons would have been built roughly in the area of the old Winn-Dixie though (maybe expanded a bit to one or both sides) to minimize impact to the other tenants who remained in the plaza. Interestingly, as Albertsons was preparing to take over the site of a former Winn-Dixie in Rockledge, Winn-Dixie had agreed to take over the building Albertsons was vacating in Indian Harbour Beach. These events were coincidental, although the headline in the article above makes the flip-flop seem more intentional than it really was.
The new Rockledge Albertsons made it through the planning process and the plans were approved by the city of Rockledge. Everything was good to go, until a snag was uncovered in July 1999. As the sale of the property was about to be finalized to the developer who was going to bring Albertsons to the site, a pre-sale inspection of the shopping center uncovered contaminated soil on the property. The soil contamination had been from chemicals leeched out by a dry cleaner that once operated in the plaza. While the dry cleaner had closed 15 years prior, the chemicals from the business were still present in the soil samples. As mentioned in the article above, the cost for clearing all traces of the chemicals from the Village Green site would have ranged from $500,000 to $700,000, and the process would have stalled any construction for up to four more years. That discovery announced, the construction plans and any hope of bringing Albertsons to the Village Green site were dead.
It's quite sad the plans for the Rockledge Albertsons were dashed this way. Most of the canceled Albertsons stores I've located had their plans squabbled due to community opposition for one reason or another, but here in Rockledge, the locals really wanted this new store. Prior to the environmental snag, Rockledge residents actually passed around a petition in support of the Albertsons project at Village Green, which was presented to the city zoning board as stronger evidence to get the project approved!
After the fallout about the environmental contaminants, the Village Green Shopping Center fell into a more rapid decline. Since the property couldn't be redeveloped as it was (as demolition and construction activity would disturb the chemicals in the soil, but leaving the property as it was wouldn't), the buildings just sat. The photo above was taken in 1999 following the collapse of Albertsons' plans to bring a store to Village Green, showing the abandoned Winn-Dixie in its original state. As the years went on the shopping center was remodeled with a new facade, and Winn-Dixie's old vestibule (pictured above) was ripped out, but otherwise the grocery anchor has sat empty since 1995. Village Green Shopping Center steadily declined with tenants following the prolonged abandonment of its anchor space too, making this a very sad shopping center in the present (as its only remaining tenants are a Chinese restaurant and a small thrift store, from what I can tell).
Here's what the old Winn-Dixie looks like today. It's not too recognizable as a former Winn-Dixie anymore, although when we peek inside, we do find a few small relics of the building's supermarket past:
Peeking through the window, the building has been mostly gutted. However, some of the old rooms in the back of the store were exposed, keeping a small trace of the old supermarket space alive.
The Village Green Shopping Center has had a lot of bad luck hanging over it. Not only was the Albertsons redevelopment killed off, but in 2013, plans were announced to bring a Walmart Neighborhood Market to the site too. Much like Albertsons' plans, the Walmart plans didn't get much of anywhere either, although I don't know if the contamination that killed of Albertsons' dreams also spoiled Walmart's. Walmart would have surely demolished the building and put something new here, which would have disturbed the contaminants. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a reason for Walmart pulling out of Village Green, but that project was ultimately scrapped too. However, 26 years after Winn-Dixie closed, it was announced in 2021 that Village Green may have its third try at getting a grocery store back in this building once again, when Thrifty Specialty Produce announced it would take over the former Winn-Dixie building. Thrifty Specialty Produce is a chain of small Hispanic-geared markets primarily located in Brevard County, which sell mostly produce (as the name implies) and meat, with a very small grocery section and lunch counter in addition. We toured a Thrifty store in this post from a long time ago, as Thrifty took over a small portion of former Albertsons #4429 in Melbourne. It's been a few months since I've last driven by this shopping center, but I had yet to see any work starting for the conversion to Thrifty. Hopefully Thrifty's plans won't be joining the likes of Albertsons' and Walmart's, as I'd like to see the expression "third time's the charm" follow through here, as a new grocery tenant has been a long time in the making here at Village Green in Rockledge!
While Albertsons' plans were ultimately thwarted here in Rockledge, it certainly would have been interesting seeing a (presumably) Grocery Palace Albertsons plopped in the middle of this shopping center. Had Albertsons opened here, it would have been Brevard County's newest Albertsons store, and only Grocery Palace store. I was never able to track down a store number for this planned location, but it would have been somewhere in the 4450s or 4460s based on the timeframe in which this location was planned. Who knows how long Albertsons would have lasted here too, or what kind of funky conversion I'd have brought to the blog today from this site! In the end, a handful of photos of a long-abandoned, heavily modified former Winn-Dixie is what we got, with an interesting story of what could have been on the side too!
That's all I have to share from here at the Village Green site. If anyone knows any more about Albertsons' plans for this location or has any updates about Thrifty Produce moving in, be sure to let us know in the comments below! For more, since this post was rather short, be sure to check out my companion post on the former Winn-Dixie Marketplace down the road for the complete story on Winn-Dixie's time in Rockledge.
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger