The old Ringling Publix Shopping Center is on the verge of demolition and a total makeover into a Walmart store. A preliminary site plan was presented to the city’s planning department on May 30, said planner Courtney Mendez.
The redevelopment of the 1950s-era shopping center – site of the city’s first Publix grocery story – requires no change in zoning, avoiding the lengthy rezoning process.
Mendez said no community workshop is required either, although she will encourage the company to hold one.
The preliminary plans will be scrutinized in mid-June by several city department officials under the aegis of the Development Review Committee. The department representatives will conduct an overview of the project from a variety of viewpoints – traffic, drainage, buffering from the neighborhoods on two sides of the property and other facets.
At some point, a final site plan will be produced. The DRC will review that, too, for completeness before sending it along for review by the Sarasota Planning Board at a public hearing. Because no zoning changes are proposed, the approval trail stops with the Planning Board.
The eastern portion of the property is park-like, never having been developed. The submission letter by CPH Engineers of Sarasota indicates that that portion will remain a buffer for the store and parking lot.
Drainage is proposed to be handled by “stormwater management areas” along Charles Ringling Boulevard and Shopping Way, the street on the south side of the property.
The parking lot will have 380 standard spaces along with 13 spaces for disabled shoppers. A new sidewalk is proposed along the eastern side of the property. Yet another new sidewalk would run from Ringling to the store entrance, serving the existing bus stop.
Delivery trucks would enter at the northwestern corner of the property, by the railroad tracks, and drive down the western edge to unload at the rear of the store to the south. Once unloaded, they would travel out on the eastern side of the property and exit at the traffic light on Ringling and Lime.
Cardboard compactors and pallet recycling areas would be located on the southern edge of the building, as would the truck docks and a “grease interceptor.”
Mendez noted the Walmart grocery story now under construction along the North Tamiami Trail will use a “no-idle” policy for its delivery trucks there. She speculated the company could adopt an identical policy for the Ringling property.
The building, which would be 98,000 square feet, would replace the existing structure. One employee at the old Publix, who asked not to be identified, said asbestos would need to be removed from that old building. The employee indicated that was the primary reason Publix decided to build a new structure three blocks away at the intersection of Wood Street and U.S. 41.
The current Ringling site is a mix of 82% impervious surface and 18% pervious, allowing the percolation of rainwater into the ground. The new plan calls for 78% impervious surface, and 22% pervious.
If the new Walmart sells groceries, it would be the fourth purveyor of groceries in a five-block area.