The Royal Palm Beach Village Council granted several approvals Thursday, June 17 related to the planned demolition and rebuilding of the Publix store at the Crossroads shopping center, located at 1180 Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
Reconstruction of the site is expected to take a year or less to finish once construction begins.
Variances included a request to reduce the required number of parking spaces by 34 spaces, from 687 to 653, and a reduction in the required pervious area from 25 percent to 24 percent. There was also an application to allow for the tear down and rebuild of the existing grocery store and portions of existing retail shops in order to add 6,623 square feet to the Publix store, increasing its square footage to about 55,454 square feet.
Planning & Zoning Director Bradford O’Brien said that variances are acceptable if special circumstances exist that are peculiar to the development site that do not result from the actions of the applicant or confer any special privileges to the applicant.
O’Brien said staff recommended denial of the parking variance because it would confer special privileges to the applicant.
The Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission recommended approval of the variances in 5-0 votes on May 25. O’Brien said the applicant asserted that the parking variance would make possible the reasonable use of the land and would not injure the area involved or be detrimental to the public welfare.
Attorney Janna Lhota, representing the applicant, said the shopping center was originally approved in the 1980s and the uses have remained essentially the same over the past 40 years, other than the development and redevelopment of outparcels.
“The current Publix that is located there is outdated, and the services and offerings that can be provided to the public are constrained due to its smaller footprint,” Lhota said. “We are here tonight asking for the approval to allow us to reconstruct the Publix with a newer prototype store that Publix is presently deploying in the State of Florida.”
To allow for the Publix expansion, the applicant is removing two empty inline tenant spaces to the south of the existing store. Part of the enhancements move the existing entrance on the north to the west, directly into the parking lot.
“We are also providing a new dedicated covered pedestrian pathway that will connect the north inline shops to the south inline shops,” Lhota said. “At present, there is no covered pathway in front of the Publix, and it’s very narrow at points. That will be rectified with this reconstruction.”
She also noted that no new uses are being added that would require more parking spaces for the project. The rear loading area will be enclosed, replacing the existing open loading dock.
Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara made a motion to approve the parking variance, which carried 5-0.
O’Brien said staff recommended denial of the reduction of pervious space, but Lhota said the request was made after the village requested the addition of three pedestrian entryways to the center, which required the removal of some plant material, adding that the decrease in pervious space is actually less than one percent.
Councilman Richard Valuntas made a motion to approve the reduction in pervious area, which it carried 5-0.
Finally, the council also approved the teardown, rebuilding and expansion of the Publix.
O’Brien said most of the stores on the site would remain unchanged. In compliance with the village’s art in public places ordinance, the applicant will add art on the southwest corner of the property at the intersection of Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards. He said staff recommended approval of the rebuilding application.
Lhota presented photographs of a Port St. Lucie prototype store that was finished in April as examples of what the reconstructed store would look like.
“It’s the first of its kind here in the Florida,” she said. “You can see a much more expanded bakery, deli [and] produce section.”
Lhota noted that all refrigerated products are inside energy-efficient glass doors equipped with sensors that turn on and off the lights inside.
“Not just your freezer products, but all of your soft refrigerated products as well,” she said, adding that the expansion will add space to the aisles to provide more comfortable shopping.
Mayor Fred Pinto asked Lhota about the timeline for completion of the project.
“Obviously, this is a very aggressive project to tear down and rebuild a new structure,” he said. “What’s the timeline for completing this?”
Lhota said that the project will proceed rapidly.
“My understanding is that from when we have the building permit in hand to the ribbon cutting, we’re talking a year,” Lhota said. “Publix does not mess around.”
The renovations have been in the planning stages for months and are not related to the high-profile, deadly shooting that occurred at that Publix store June 10.