Groundbreaking In July For Aldi Project In Royal Palm

Plans are coming together for a late July groundbreaking for Aldi grocery stores’ regional distribution center in Royal Palm Beach, according to Kelly Smallridge, president and CEO of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County.

The BDB joined Aldi in December 2011 to announce that the growing grocery retailer planned to build a distribution center at 1201 N. State Road 7 in Royal Palm Beach. The facility, designed to serve the company’s existing and planned South Florida locations, will employ more than 100 people.

“The Business Development Board worked on that project for a good two years, and it has certainly increased in size,” Smallridge said. “Initially, when we announced the project, it was about 625,000 square feet, and now it is going to be a little larger than that.”

Smallridge said the BDB had not set a specific date for the event. “We are going to be responsible for the event,” she said, explaining that media announcements of an early June groundbreaking had been premature. “That caught us by surprise, and I’m not certain where they got that date from. It will most likely be in late July.”

Smallridge stressed that the project has not been delayed.

“Things are progressing,” she said. “There certainly has been nothing that has led us to believe that we’re not going to move forward with a late July date. These types of projects are very large, and the dates can fluctuate depending on schedules, depending on timing of permits and preparing the property. There’s a multitude of different things that go into preparing for a site of this magnitude.”

Royal Palm Beach Village Manager Ray Liggins said the village had issued all the permits needed for Aldi to break ground. “We’ve approved all their site work plans,” Liggins said. “They just have to pay the engineering fee and show us the [Department of Transportation] permits. We did everything we needed to do on our end, at least where they could build the site. Building the site is six months before you start building the buildings.”

Smallridge noted that Aldi had been negotiating for a grocery store location in Royal Palm Beach, at the former Toys ‘R’ Us location on SR 7 north of Southern Blvd., but had not completed the lease. Liggins added the landlord had come to the village requesting a sign variance, which was granted.

If not that location, Liggins said he expects that a store will open in Royal Palm Beach in the near future.

“This is also going to be their Southeast headquarters,” Liggins said. “Wherever they have a headquarters, they like to have a store close by.”

Smallridge agreed. “They want to get some stores in place on a simultaneous path,” she said. “You don’t want to jump the gun on the distribution site and not have any stores to provide products to.”

Aldi has more than 1,000 stores in 31 states. There are currently 57 regional stores, mostly in Central Florida, with plans for additional growth in South Florida to justify opening the new distribution center, according to the company’s web site. It plans to have nearly 70 stores by the end of 2013. The closest store to the western communities is at 2481 Okeechobee Blvd. in West Palm Beach.

The Aldi warehouse will be built on about 42 acres of the 73-acre site, with the remaining parcels to be developed later, except for one that already houses a storage facility. The anticipated economic benefit to the community from Aldi is estimated at $56 million for the first year and about $115 million for each of the following five years, according to Royal Palm Beach officials.