Some neighbors say development was built too close to their homes
As appeared in The Tuscaloosa News I Tuesday, January 6, 2009
By Patrick Rupinski
The newest Publix Super Market in the Tuscaloosa area will open Wednesday in Taylorville.
On Monday, employees stocked shelves and polished display cases, readying the 45,600-square-foot store for its debut. Construction workers, meanwhile, put the finishing touches on the facade.
For our existing customers, it has been a while since we opened a store in that area, so we think they will notice some nice changes,” Publix spokeswoman Brenda Reid said.
“We have upgraded our store plan with new technology and new trends like more organic products.”
The customer service center is in the middle of the floor near the front entrance, rather than in a corner, and the interior color scheme reflects a cool color palette, she said. ‘We have gone from bright colors to muted colors to cool colors, which will give this store a different feel.”
The new Publix is the anchor store of the $20 million Capital Market Center off Alabama Highway 69 South and Southview Lane, near Shelton State Community College. The strip center has space for about 10 small shops. One has been leased for a Hungry Howie’s Pizza and Subs.
Robert Buchalter, a partner of developer Capital Growth Buchalter, said space also has been leased to a dry cleaners and nail salon. ”There are several others we are working on,” he said.
Capital Growth Buchalter also plans to build eight out-parcel facilities. Buchalter said his company is in discussions with national food and medical companies, which are interested in being tenants.
He said he could not identify those potential tenants now.
The new Publix, the fourth in the Tuscaloosa area, will open with a ribbon-cutting at 6:45 a.m. Wednesday. The store has about 90 employees and will have a pharmacy, bakery, deli and fresh seafood section with sushi, in addition to the traditional groceries, meat, produce, dairy and frozen foods.
Store manager Ken Hunt said the store will feature grand opening specials during its first two weeks.
The Publix gives residents of the Taylorville community south of Skyland Boulevard a third supermarket. Winn-Dixie and Food World also serve the area.
While the additional shopping opportunities will please many, not all in the area are happy.
Several residents of the Hillcrest Gardens subdivision, which abuts the shopping center, said the development has diminished their properties’ value.
“Just look at it,” said Tonyia Tidline as she stood on her patio. ”There used to be an open field with a buffer line of trees.”
The trees and brush were removed for development, and a large wooden fence was erected about 2 to 3 feet from a smaller wooden fence along the north end of the subdivision.
The larger fence was to shelter the nearby residences from noise and lights from the shopping center but does neither, said Tidline, who lives on Periwinkle Drive.
“This is not aesthetically pleasing. There’s noise, too much light at night, which lights up the house when you are trying to sleep, and health concerns” from vermin which might breed in the easement between the two solid fences, she said.
Jimmy Street, who also lives on Periwinkle Drive, echoed similar complaints. Both he and Tidline said the development should have had more of a treelined buffer.
“All they had to do was move the development 20 to 25 feet north, and we would have had a real nice development,” Street said.
An officer of Hillcrest Gardens’ neighborhood association, Street said 13 of the subdivision’s home sites abut the shopping center development and are directly affected by it.
“We are not mad at Publix. I like to shop at Publix,” he said. “But I don’t like this development.”
Street and Tidline said they were upset with the developer and the city of Tuscaloosa, which approved the development.
The shopping center is in Tuscaloosa, but Hillcrest Gardens remains in an unincorporated area.
Buchalter said he personally was unaware of the residents’ complaints.
“We abided by every agreement we made,” he said. “We absolutely want to be a good neighbor. We want to do everything possible to have a development that the city and neighborhood can be proud of.”
The Taylorville store is the first of at least four Publix Super Markets that the Florida-based chain plans to open in Alabama this year, said. The chain already has three stores locally: one in Northport, one on The Strip and a third on Rice Mine Road.
Stores also will open in 2009 in Calera, Gardendale and Gulf Shores.
“When we look for a site for a new store, we look at the area’s population density and the growth in the area and sometimes whether people in that area are shopping at other Publix stores,” Reid said.
In 2008, Publix opened eight stores in Alabama. Publix now has 993 stores in five Southeastern states.