Planned Albertsons #44XX
NWC of Veterans Boulevard and Peachland Boulevard, Port Charlotte, FL
After my break from blogging last time, your very own AFB returns this week for a slightly different kind of post. We're going to get a little bit of Albertsons and a little bit of Publix in today's post, but not in the way we're normally accustomed to. Our Albertsons story and our Publix story involve two separate pieces of land, but these two stories do intertwine in a weird way as we'll see in a little bit. Some interesting things to see and talk about in today's post, so let's get right into this:
Port Charlotte and its sister city North Port (originally called North Port Charlotte) was the first massive Floridian mega-development constructed by the Mackle Brothers owned-company General Development Corporation (GDC) in the mid-1950's. GDC was a sister company to the still-extant Deltona Corporation, whose primary goal was to build massive new residential communities in which the company could sell lots to northerners wanting to move to the tropical paradise that was Florida. The combined mass of Port Charlotte and North Port is absolutely huge (approx. 150 square miles), and even in 2022, still has sections that aren't even touched yet by development. However, those empty sections of town are just a testament to the development's massive size - going into the early 2000's, the combined North Port and Port Charlotte were pushing a population of 100,000 residents, with more people moving to the area on top of that. While Port Charlotte had enough of a population to attract a 1 million square foot mall to be built in the development's central core in 1987, it took Albertsons a surprisingly long time to develop an interest in putting a store in the area. Prior to the plans announced in the clipping above, the nearest Albertsons stores to Port Charlotte would have been the long-established #4346 in Venice 20 miles to the north, and the recently-opened #4458 in northern Cape Coral 30 miles to the south, a surprising gap in coverage for such a sizably populated region.
While the area around Port Charlotte Town Center Mall and points north and south along Tamiami Trail are typically considered the retail hub of the area, at the turn of the 2000's, a population boom was happening in the far eastern part of the Port Charlotte area, close to the city's interchange with I-75 at Kings Highway. That area is known as the Sandhill development, and saw the construction of a new Publix and Winn-Dixie store in the mid-1990's, as well as additional highway-side businesses clustering around the interchange. In addition, new housing and apartments were popping up in the area too, making it more attractive to new businesses who wanted to establish themselves in the area. Wanting a piece of the development boom, Albertsons finally announced in late 2000 their intentions to build a store in the Port Charlotte area, placing the new store on an empty lot directly across from the existing Sandhill development Publix store in the Peachland Promenade Shopping Center.
Albertsons' plans called for a new 57,560 square foot supermarket to be built on the property in Port Charlotte, alongside an attached liquor store and a 2,000 square foot Albertsons Express gas station to be built on an outparcel. While the plans for the new Albertsons were announced in late 2000, it appears that details were still being finalized for the project come 2002, as seen in the clipping from a county document below:
The clipping above comes from a county document issued in July 2002, granting Albertsons a partial approval of their new supermarket project. The document explained that the county was all for the project, but Albertsons had to fix a few issues related to storm water runoff before construction could actually begin. However, this document from July 2002 was the last trace I could find of Albertsons' involvement in putting a store in Port Charlotte. I don't know if the storm water tweaks were too much of a hassle for Albertsons to deal with, or if the back and forth with the county dragged on into the 2003/2004 timeframe, getting to the point where Albertsons was giving up on Florida, and the plans were scrapped for that reason.
While the exact reasons for Albertsons pulling out of the Port Charlotte project will remain a mystery, we came very close to seeing an Albertsons pop up on the plot of land in the image above. I'm not entirely sure how Albertsons wanted to place their building on the property above, but it would have been in there somewhere.
Zooming out just a bit, we can see the proposed Albertsons site in relation to the Publix store across the street (Publix #408). By the time Albertsons' plans had come along, Publix had been established across the street for 10 years. However, shortly after plans for the new Albertsons store were announced, Publix threw out a little surprise of their own:
In March 2001, Publix announced their intent to replace the existing 10 year old Peachland Promenade store with a brand new one. That new location was to be built on the empty lot adjacent to the existing shopping center. Whether prompted by the population boom or the threat of a new Albertsons popping up across the street, at the turn of the new millennium, it really looked like things were heating up in the supermarket wars of eastern Port Charlotte. Sadly, just like what happened with the plans for the new Albertsons across the street, Publix's plans for a new store fell through also:
Come 2004, I found a document in the Charlotte County records where Publix was filing permits to do an interior remodel of their existing Peachland Promenade store (a snippet of which can be seen above). With Publix looking to do a remodel, that meant the replacement plans were called off, an odd development for sure. The fact that Publix's new store was called off after Albertsons's plans fell through seem to suggest the new store was primarily a response to the new Albertsons opening across the street. There is the chance that both plans falling through were purely coincidence, but it is intriguing to think that there was a time when Publix actually felt threatened by Albertsons!
Going into the late 2000's, Peachland Promenade remained as it was, with a freshly remodeled Publix #408 chugging along as it had for years prior.
By 2010, the planned Albertsons site across the street had been cleared with access roads installed, although there still wasn't anything definitive planned for the site. This work appears to have been done to make the property more attractive with the land "shovel ready" when a prospective new tenant came along.
Coming into the early 2020's, the Albertsons site has been mostly developed into two separate apartment communities, with some small retail establishments on the outparcels facing the main roads (those small establishments including an Auto Zone, Firestone Auto Care, a bank, and an extended stay hotel). That combination of tenants sounds about right for a stereotypical 2020's development project in Florida, just minus the new gym and self-storage complex!
The site isn't anything to write home about, so while in the area myself, I only took this one photo of the property while I was waiting at the light out front. The entire development is called "Springs at Port Charlotte" (as noted on that sign in the background), with the new hotel situated right on the corner of Peachland and Veterans, presumably where the Albertsons Express would have been built had Albertsons' plans gone through.
While Albertsons' plans for a new store in Port Charlotte completely fizzled out, Publix decided to keep theirs on file. Even though Publix didn't get their new store in 2001 like originally announced, Publix decided to dust off their plans for a new Peachland Promenade store come 2012, building a much larger modern store in the same place where the 2001 location would have gone. The above image shows the new Publix under construction, serving as a small extension to the existing strip of stores on the site.
The new store, Publix #1438, opened on March 13, 2013, 12 years after Publix initially announced their intent to build a new store on that adjacent property. So instead of lasting for only 10 years, the original Publix #408 got to live for 22 years - a bit more reasonable of a timeframe for a replacement situation. So what do you guys think - do you think Publix's original plans for a replacement were a direct response to the new Albertsons, or just a coincidence?
Since that's about all there is to say about the planned Albertsons store, we'll use the remainder of this post to look at Publix #408 (or what remains of it, anyway, as there's a bit more to this place than a few satellite images of an empty lot). Even though Publix #408 closed in 2013, I managed to find a few pictures of the store on a website called waymarking.com, where people post pictures of random places and tag them to a map. Publix #408 had a really neat "old Florida" themed exterior, an exterior theme I've seen on a few modern Publix stores, but was pretty rare for these older generation stores.
Here's a close-up of #408's right side entrance, through the doors of which we can see the original Wavy Pastel tile pattern on the wall. However, this store did not close with Wavy Pastel, as the remodel permit I found from 2004 would suggest this store did get Classy Market 1.0 after the original replacement plans fell through. Since this store lasted until 2013, there's a chance it could have remodeled once more before the new store opened too. However, I didn't find any interior pictures to see what decor this store had in its later years, or if it did go out with Classy Market 1.0.
A blue tile pattern lined the front of the store, matching the blue paint scheme of the entire building. Some classic late 2000's Publix banners line the windows of the vestibule too.
Here's one last look at #408 while it was still open. After the new store opened in 2013, the original location sat abandoned until 2017, when it began the transformation into what we'll be seeing today:
After Publix moved to the other end of the plaza, the original building was remodeled away from its old Florida styling to this more modern stone and stucco motif. Following the remodel, the building still retained its original Publix look and shape, just spruced up a bit. The sloped metal roof panels are the only trait from the building's original design to survive the remodel, everything else being new. The entirety of the former Publix sat vacant until 2017, when Planet Fitness took the right-most half of the space for a new gym. The left half of the building sat vacant until 2021, when Goodwill moved from the other end of the plaza to the much larger slice of the former Publix building.
Publix's signing would have been in that middle section of the facade, but with the building subdivided now, the individual tenant signs have been moved to the towers that marked each of Publix's original entryways.
With Goodwill taking over a chunk of the old Publix, I was hoping to find some fun Publix relics inside, as a thrift store wouldn't be too thorough with a remodel, right? The doors we see here are original to Publix, as well as the design and aesthetic of the vestibule.
Goodwill added the mural we see on the wall to the left (which depicts the nearby Charlotte Harbor), and painted the old Wavy Pastel tiles underneath the mural to solid blue.
Leaving the vestibule, the inside of the new Goodwill is pretty disappointing. Goodwill gutted the interior prior to moving in, leaving only the original terrazzo floors and one other little surprise behind from the Publix days (and that other surprise we'll see in a little bit).
This particular Goodwill store is run by Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida, who is the entity that runs all the Goodwill stores in Charlotte, Lee, Collier, and Hendry Counties. In my travels I've been to a few stores run by Goodwill of Southwest Florida, and while some have been bland and modern like this one, I did find one location in particular that was a goldmine of supermarket history. As you can probably tell, this was not that goldmine of supermarket history, but we'll be seeing that particular store another day!
Like some of the various Goodwill operators in Florida, Goodwill of Southwest Florida skews toward selling a lot of new merchandise, which to me sucks a lot of the fun out of the traditional "treasure hunt" thrift store experience. However, Goodwill of Southwest Florida isn't as bad as Goodwill Suncoast (Tampa Bay's Goodwill operator) when it comes to new merchandise - Goodwill Suncoast felt like it was mostly new stuff for sale!
Anyway, AFB's thrift store rant of the day aside, the photo above looks across the back wall of the old Publix store. Publix's meat coolers would have been located along this wall, with the service counter and produce located in the background in the back left corner.
Turning around toward the front of the building again, here's a look at the second Publix's surprise Goodwill left behind. When the building was subdivided, Goodwill inherited half of Publix's upstairs offices (a traditional feature in these early 90's Publix stores - that window showing their location). The upstairs offices would have ran the length of the front end between the two vestibules, but now get chopped off half way due to the subdivision. The stairs to the upper offices and the restrooms are located in the same place Publix would have had those too.
Back on the sales floor, here's a look toward the left side of the building, where Frozen Foods would have been. If you look closely at the floor, you can see the scars from where Publix's grocery aisles would have been.
Goodwill's community resource center occupies the space that was previously the Publix Bakery. The book nook is where Frozen Foods used to be.
From books, here's a look into the building's back left corner, where produce used to be. The former produce space is now home to furniture and wall art.
Our last interior photo shows Goodwill's front end, with another look at the window from Publix's former second floor offices.
While there wasn't much left to see from Publix inside, the outside of the building is still has plenty of Publix relics, like these windows running the length of the vestibule. The old blue and white checkerboard tiles have now been painted over in beige, but you can still see the outline of the tiles if you look closely at the wall under the windows.
Over on the Planet Fitness side of the building, we see they kept Publix's original vestibule design, but replaced their original automatic doors with these manual ones. Planet Fitness did just as thorough a remodel to the interior of their half of the building as Goodwill did, so there wasn't much to see in here.
A very tiny bit of the building's original old Florida aesthetic remains in the middle section between the two vestibules, with the detailing on the columns and the metal roofing panels.
And with one last look at the exterior, that's what remains of Publix #408. Even if a lot of the interior was wiped away, at least the exterior aesthetic of the old Publix was kept, still making it pretty obvious what used to be here at a quick glance.
Between the old Publix and the new Publix was this building, which was Goodwill's prior home before jumping over to the old Publix space. The old Goodwill building was built new around 2013, and wasn't previously a pharmacy (which it convincing looks like, especially in a Publix-anchored shopping center from the early 1990's).
To finish out this post, here are a few photos of Publix #1438. I didn't go inside, but you can see some photos of the interior here. It's a pretty average modern 54M Publix, which appears to have opened with Classy Market 2.5 and later remodeled to Classy Market 3.0/Sienna.
From looking at this modern Publix, you'd never realize how complicated of a history this place had, and how it possibly intertwined with the plans for a store across the street that never came to be. It's amazing what kind of stories these rather ordinary supermarkets can hold, and how Albertsons nearly changed the entire landscape of this intersection in Port Charlotte!
With all of this talk about Publix and Albertsons today, Winn-Dixie is probably feeling a little left out of the party. That being said, I have a fun Winn-Dixie related post coming up next time before we return to our regularly scheduled Albertsons stuff. Come back in two weeks for that!
So until the next post,
The Albertsons Florida Blogger