Publix to build block-square Omni-area store
By Yudislaidy Fernandez
Publix is coming to the Omni neighborhood.
The multi-billion-dollar company filed design plans with the City of Miami this month to build a 48,000-square-foot supermarket at 1776 Biscayne Blvd., which would be the first major grocery store for this booming neighborhood, home to a growing number of condo residents.
The project, costing $7.5 million to build, is to encompass a 48,200-square-foot Publix supermarket, 251-space garage and two adjacent retail spaces, 3,250 and 2,025 square feet respectively, design plans show.
The one-square-block supermarket is to face Biscayne Boulevard, bordered by Northeast 17th Terrace, Northeast 18th Street and Northeast Second Court, according to filed plans.
The closest Publix serving this neighborhood now is at 4870 Biscayne Blvd.
Even through the economic downturn, the Publix brand has remained strong, with the company recording $6.1 billion in sales in the fourth quarter of last year, up 1% from 2008. The chain has 1,012 locations nationwide, including 727 in Florida, more than two-thirds of all Publix stores.
The fast-growing chain has also assumed an anchor tenant role in several new shopping centers in Miami-Dade, including the recently-opened Fifth & Alton in Miami Beach.
Boris Kozolchyk, senior vice president of retail services at Grubb & Ellis, describes Publix as a "sophisticated and savvy retailer that knows its market," which means it has established that there's a market to be served at the new location.
The Omni area is flourishing with new condominiums, entertainment venues like the performing arts center and new restaurants.
Mr. Kozolchyk pointed to Publix's expansion in the bustling Brickell area, where today it operates three supermarkets within blocks of one another.
Publix's entrance into the Omni area could open doors for other retailers.
"Other tenants are looking for the ability to benefit from traffic generated by an anchor tenant like Publix," Mr. Kozolchyk said.
Plus, the big-box retailer could attract other service-oriented businesses, "which is what the area needs to establish itself as a leading neighborhood," he added. "Publix is a great first step in that direction."
Publix did not return calls.
Miami Commissioner Marc Sarnoff, whose district includes the site, sees expansion of Publix into Omni as a big investment in a thriving community.
"Publix will be a great amenity for the new residents filling up these condo towers," he said.
He also foresees the supermarket over time drawing such other establishments as bakeries, drugstores and mom-and-pops.
Once Publix goes through permitting and construction begins, Mr. Sarnoff estimates it could open in 18 months.
He says he was approached by Publix about three months ago with a request for $1.7 million in Omni Community Redevelopment Agency funding to build the store but he wouldn't support funding the project at a time the city faces a serious budget crisis.
"I was criticized for taking the risk of a Publix not coming," he said. "But I didn't think a multi-billion-dollar company needed $1.7 million."