Sunday, April 10, 2022

Planned Albertsons #44XX - Rockledge, FL


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


  1. Well, this is interesting! It seems the subject of 'It was supposed to be your store' Albertsons that never were built has been the hot topic in regional retail enthusiast groups here so far in 2022! Perhaps not surprisingly, there were several 'It was supposed to be your stores' in Houston and I know there will be something about this on Houston Historic Retail soon enough so those who are interested in this subject should keep an eye out for that. At least as far as Houston 'It was supposed to be your stores' go, there are some common ties to them and maybe the same would be true with Florida 'It was supposed to be your stores,' but I'm not sure.

    The environmental contaminants situation is unfortunate, but not unheard of here in Houston. In fact, I live not too far from a former federal Superfund site (perhaps it still is a Superfund site) that is a Superfund site merely because the operator of a former dry cleaner shop was illegally dumping their dry cleaning chemicals down a drain. Because of that, a massive federal cleanup and remediation process had to take place. The impacted area went down almost to where the Jones Rd. & Fallbrook Albertsons was. That was one of the first Albertsons in Houston and it was very short-lived before it moved to the location with the garden center that I shared with you last week near the mini Walgreens and the WSS. I don't think the Superfund remediation had anything to do with Albertsons relocating as the newer site was simply a more active corner for retail by the 2000s than the old location that Albertsons built in 1995. Perhaps there were some Florida Albertsons locations where Albertsons quickly came to regret where they located a store!

    One famous Superfund site in Houston is the old Brio Superfund Site where a neighborhood, a school, and park were placed on land formerly used by chemical companies. It turns out that one of the companies that used to operate on the land was putting waste chemicals and unprocessed petroleum in underground pits (presumably without disclosing this to the neighborhood developers) and the residents of the new homes were becoming ill and babies born there were having birth defects. Once authorities figured out what happened, they had to abandon everything that was built and the new homes, school, and park all had to be torn down just a few years after they were built. It's quite a shocking thing to read about really! Link:

    There were a couple of new supermarkets that were built to serve the destroyed neighborhood, but they were built just far enough away from the neighborhood to not need to be torn down along with everything else. These are some interesting stores here in current times. One was a Minimax/Texas Super Foods that is now an Asian supermarket, Hong Kong Food Market. This store still has some original decor from when the Minimax opened in 1983! Link:

    Across the street is an old Safeway that is now a Food Town. The Food Town is interesting because they're using 1990s Food Lion decor at this location even though the store was never a Food Lion. While Food Town does have one location near me in an old Food Lion with Food Lion decor, we can only assume that some local signmaker got their hands on Food Lion's decor templates because there are a few local grocers who use Food Lion decor in locations that were never Food Lions. It's quite strange! Also, I'm pretty sure this Food Town is using old circular Albertsons checkout stands as well. So, yeah, you may recognize some former Florida supermarket stuff in this store even though it was never a Food Lion or an Albertsons, lol:

    1. I actually have another planned Albertsons store post coming up in the near future too. It just happens that a lot of the planned Floridian stores tend to be more of a sidenote to another post than an entire standalone feature, but there were some planned Floridian stores that are deserving of their own posts too (more of which we'll see in the future). Houston had a lot of never-built stores stemming from the mass exodus in 2002. Since the Florida division died much more slowly than a pullout all at once, all of our planned stores seemed to be one-offs that never happened for a large variety of reasons (environmental, local opposition, etc.)

      I know environmental contamination is one of the last things you want to find in a construction project, as it can delay the entire project for years and make things so much more expensive (or cancel it outright, like we saw here). I've been told before that former dry cleaner locations are notorious for contamination, so I'm not surprised that's what tripped up Albertsons plans here.

      I can think of a few Floridian Albertsons locations that Albertsons seemed to regret pretty quick. #4365 in Jupiter, #4341 in Stuart, and #4406 in Tampa all come to mind, as all of those stores only lasted a handful of years before Albertsons decided to relocate or close them outright, mostly because of poor real estate planning. So it's not just Houston where Albertsons had some regrets on store placement!

      The Brio Superfund site is a really sad story, all that stuff being built and torn down so quick. That's crazy how all that happened, and how the lad is just left to rot today. The old decor inside Hong Kong Food Market is certainly 1980's! That's odd about the imported Food Lion decor popping up at so many random Houston grocery stores that were never a Food Lion, a weird sight for sure! I know some other grocery stores besides Albertsons used the circular checkstands, but Albertsons was certainly one of the largest and most prominent to use them, and why I ingrain them so much with the Albertsons experience!

  2. I'm sure it was crazy for you to learn about a store that would have been so close to you, and I'm glad I was able to help out with your research! I remember reading about some environmental issues with regards to a former dry cleaners next to Publix #1427 but I guess that didn't hinder Publix's plans too much (or maybe that is why they kept the shell of Bruno's in-tact).

    It is interesting how the shopping center owner bothered to update the façade without a new tenant lined up; the current look of the building also reminds me of a Food Lion for some reason.

    I have seen Walmart not tear down a building when opening a Neighborhood Market. It looks like this store in Gulf Breeze, FL just took over a former Delchamps: I'm sure the neighborhood would have appreciated somebody moving into the space!

    1. Glad you were able to unblock those articles for me to make this post possible! That dry cleaners could have been a reason for Publix to keep the shell of the old Bruno's, as one of the issues here was Albertsons wanted to rip down the old Winn-Dixie building for a building of their own, which would have disturbed the contaminants. Keeping the shell of the building as-is but only remodeling the interior wouldn't have disturbed anything.

      The facade is very Food Lion-esque! I don't know how long ago the exterior remodel was done, but the landlord may have been trying anything to get this building filled (which is finally happening now, as I drove by this place the other day and saw signs for Thrifty Produce up on the building).

      I've seen some old grocery store buildings get remodeled into Walmart Neighborhood Markets before, like that example in Gulf Breeze. Walmart usually keeps the facades mostly in-tact during conversions, but almost always rebuilds the interior to their own liking.

  3. That's too bad Albertsons was hard-pressed into getting a store on this site. If only those environmental issues with the soil had been ironed out, the deal could have been all buttoned up.

    1. It would have been nice to see an Albertsons pop up here, but then again, who knows what would be in that building today, or if the old Albertsons would have been sitting vacant for a long time too.

    2. I was shooting for dry cleaning puns -- apologies if they didn't click like they should have 😅

    3. Haha, I just now noticed your dry cleaning puns!

    4. Why did that take until now for me to catch that! I guess I need to launder out the fog in my mind!