By Angie Francalancia
The new owners of Sunshine Square, the busy, Publix-anchored shopping center at the southwest corner of Woolbright Road and Federal Highway, have begun work to renovate the aging plaza.
Plans include demolishing part of the retail space and the existing small Publix to make way for a new, 54,817-square-foot Publix.
Columbia, S.C.,-based Edens & Avant, which bought the shopping center in a short sale for $26 million last July, got approval from Boynton Beach to reconfigure much of the space by demolishing part of the strip center that faces Woolbright, making space for a “main street” through the center that would connect with Southeast 18th Avenue on the south side of the plaza.
The $9 million renovation includes adding outdoor dining areas, improving the parking design, and creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment, the company said in a statement.
City officials said they welcomed the renovation.
“I’ve seen that area evolve over time,” City Councilman Bill Orlov said. “I think the changes that will take place with the Publix and the other buildings are just enhancing that area. The redevelopment of Sunshine Square certainly has helped the entire area become more of an area people can come to and shop and dine on the eastern side of town.”
The center’s previous owner had begun renovations and had proposed the main street idea before Edens & Avant bought it last summer.
“For a long time it looked its age. It was built back in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Ed Breese, Boynton Beach’s principal planner. “I think this developer recognized there needed to be greater visibility and connectivity of Publix to the rest of the center, and that’s one of the reasons they proposed the main street.
Demolishing the midsection of retail space also will allow better cohesion between Publix and the other retail spaces, according to Edens & Avant.
The company would not release details about the timing of the demolition, causing some worry among existing tenants about their stores sitting in a construction zone, especially during season.
More information would be released in the coming weeks, said Robbie Robertson, communications director for Edens & Avant.
Publix also did not return calls.
The new Publix will be about 14,000 square feet larger, and will be a little more visible from Woolbright through the “main street.” But instead of adding on to the existing structure, the grocery store will be demolished, then rebuilt, Breese said.
“Publix is doing that more and more,” he said. “For them to really modernize, it’s easier for them to remove the structure and build back new.
Area shoppers may find one of their closest sources for groceries, at least for a while, to be the Walmart that is rapidly rising at the corner of Federal Highway and Gulfstream Boulevard.
It’s expected to open in the fall, a company spokeswoman said.
Other changes at Sunshine Square include adding two freestanding retail buildings and two bank buildings.
Bank of America is anticipating moving into its new 6,200-square-foot building April 18, said Christina Beyer Toth, southeast media relations manager.
The new branch bank will replace a branch about a mile away at 114 N. Federal Highway, which will be closing.