$60M Publix-anchored East San Marco project could start early next year

John Carey, managing member of Whitehall Realty Partners LLC
John Carey, managing member of Whitehall Realty Partners LLC
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East San Marco residents might see their neighborhood Publix Super Market under development by this time next year as part of a $60 million mixed-use project at one of the area’s highest-profile sites.

John Carey, managing member of Jacksonville-based Whitehall Realty Partners LLC, said Tuesday that Whitehall is under contract as the co-developer with another group, but he declined to identify it.

Carey said financing has been arranged and the capital partner also will be identified in an announcement expected soon. Financing delayed a deal last year for Whitehall to develop the project.

“Capital for the project has been arranged and is no longer an obstacle to moving forward,” Carey said.

He expects to break ground in early 2016. The more than $60 million total cost includes both the retail and the residential elements of the project.

He said Publix and some of the apartments could be completed in 15 to 18 months.

That means Publix could open there in 2017.

The site is at Hendricks Avenue and Atlantic Boulevard in historic and trendy San Marco, not far from the Southbank area of the St. Johns River.

Regency Centers Corp. controls the five-acre property, where signage at the fenced-off site has long heralded the impending project.

Carey responded after Regency Centers Managing Director James Thompson said Tuesday morning that the property is under contract with a residential developer, which would build the apartments and retail center.

Jacksonville-based Regency Centers, a nationwide shopping center developer, would then buy the retail stores. Those would include the long-expected Publix.

Thompson declined to identify the developer until the due diligence is completed, but he said the sale could be completed by early 2016. He identified Carey as the local partner with the residential developer.

“I would like to think if everything goes well, they would be under construction early next year,” Thompson said after Regency Centers’ annual shareholders meeting. He said completion would be determined by the developer’s timeframe.

Carey said the project “is basically the one that has been approved. The program hasn’t changed.”

Council enacted ordinances in March 2014 allowing development of 280 apartments, up to 63,000 square feet of commercial space, including the Publix, the existing Wells Fargo bank branch and additional commercial space.

The project includes several parcels. The main site at Hendricks and Atlantic would include up to 46,000 square feet of commercial space, including Publix, and up to 245 multifamily units with a maximum six-story parking garage.

A deal would bring the 13-year process to a conclusion after several attempts.

This time, the expectations gained traction in January when a Regency Centers executive said his group was working on a new deal, almost 10 months after the last attempt to complete a transaction.

Last April, Whitehall, as the residential development partner, withdrew from the deal, saying it could not line up the financing.

In that deal, Whitehall Realty Partners would buy the land at closing and develop the project. Regency Centers would have bought the retail component about a year after construction began, when the stores were built, and would have begun tenant improvements for Publix and other retail tenants.

As of January, Publix Super Markets remained on board for the opportunity to satisfy the Southbank area neighborhoods that have long asked for a grocery store in the area.

Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens, media and community relations manager, said this morning that Publix remains committed to the project and looks “forward to serving the San Marco and surrounding communities in the very near future.”

The road to Publix began at least by 2002, when initial discussions surfaced about a mixed-use development that would include the popular grocery store.

Regency Centers owns 322 centers nationwide in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Kroger is its largest tenant, accounting for 8.5 percent of the gross leasable square footage owned by Regency Centers, followed by Publix, at 6.5 percent.

Regency Centers’ Jacksonville holdings are dominated by Publix. Of the 16 centers it owns in Northeast Florida, 14 are large enough for a grocery anchor and all but one feature Publix.

Brooklyn Station on Riverside in Jacksonville is anchored by The Fresh Market.

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