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Publix may leave old plaza for new

A new center at Collier Parkway and SR 54 could win the prestige tenant from Willow Bend.


© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001

LAND O'LAKES -- The Willow Bend Town Centre likely will lose its Publix store to a new shopping and office center being built across the street, the developers of the new center announced on Thursday.

Publix Super Markets has approved a new 61,000-square-foot store for the center to be built at Collier Parkway and State Road 54, officials at Carrollwood-based Primerica Development Co. said.

The grocery store has not yet signed a lease, both Publix Super Markets and Primerica said. Until a lease is signed Publix will not discuss the planned store, spokesman Lee Brunson said.

"We treat it as a rumor and our official position is I can neither confirm nor deny a location at that particular site," Brunson said.

The new center, Collier Commons, will be on the northwest corner of the busy intersection. The first part of the center, including Publix, is scheduled to open at the end of this year or early in 2002, roughly the time a widened Collier Parkway and State Road 54 are to be completed, Primerica spokesman George Trujllo said.

Business owners and managers at Willow Bend said they knew nothing about the proposed move.

"It would probably have a pretty devastating effect on the plaza," said Joe Albertelli, who owns Willow Bend Liquors. "Publix is a big draw here.

"Not much else is going to draw people in."

At Willow Bend's other anchor tenant, Kmart, a manager expressed less concern.

"If they moved across the street I don't think it would make that much of a difference," manager Bert Guild said. "It would also depend if and when someone else moved into" Publix's current location.

Officials at St. Petersburg-based Sembler Investments, which tenants said manages the center, could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

The new center will be 80 acres including retail space, office space and apartments, Trujllo said. It will include medical and day care facilities.

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