Albertsons is closing

But what does it mean for NW 13th Street?


The Albertsons on NW 13th Street plans to close on Oct. 8.

MATT STAMEY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 at 2:58 p.m.

The Albertsons supermarket on NW 13th Street, which has announced it is closing, is the latest casualty in an area of Gainesville that has seen several closings in recent years — with more expected in the years ahead once Walmart relocates.

Area businesspeople say the closings are not endemic to the area since other businesses do well there, but are the result of struggling companies and a bad economy.

And with numerous households nearby and a steady flow of traffic, the many vacancies could make the area ripe for redevelopment in a city without a lot of available land.

Near Albertsons is a vacant Sticks ‘N' Stuff on the corner of NW 13th Street and 23rd Avenue that closed a couple months ago. It will house a Spirit Halloween costume shop temporarily. Across 13th Street is a former Blockbuster video store that closed in early spring. On the other corners are a 60,000-square-foot anchor spot in the Verde Plaza that has sat empty for about 10 years and a vacant Shell Oil station.

Although much business growth has followed residential growth westward, businesses also have moved into the 13th Street area in recent years. A Lowe's Home Improvement store was built on the site of the old Gainesville Mall, Planet Fitness moved into a former movie theater in Verde Plaza, which is otherwise full except for the big-box location, including a Dollar Tree and an Asian grocery that opened last year. Goodwill and Verizon are recent additions to the area.

Betsy Whitaker, a Realtor for numerous properties in the vicinity, said the new stores are doing extremely well and feeding off each other as people come into the area to shop.

John Hudson, development consultant for Verde Plaza, said, "We've got more cars in the parking lot than we have had in a long time."

He said the plaza nearly had a deal with a big-box clothing store to move into its anchor spot, but that store instead decided to go to Butler Plaza.

"I think it actually makes a nice opportunity for somebody there," Whitaker said of Albertsons' closing. "The demographics are very strong for that area."

However, some of the recent deals were dependent on Walmart and its 35,000 daily visitors.

Other deals fell through after the new Walmart Supercenter was approved for NW 34th Street near U.S. 441, Whitaker said. Other stores in the Walmart plaza are expected to follow, including the Books-A-Million.

Dollar Tree already moved out of the Walmart plaza and into Verde Plaza.

Bob Ackerman, a shareholder with Brasington's Adventure Outfitters near Albertsons, said his store is not dependent on Albertsons traffic.

He said he and others expect Albertsons to sell the land if the company doesn't already have a deal. They also expect the aging building housing the 13th Street Walmart to be demolished to make way for something new, he said.

"I have heard from a few developers that this area is considered one of the prime areas for redevelopment," Ackerman said.

He said with good demographics and traffic counts going up, he doesn't understand why the area is underserved.

"I think it's just transition," he said.

Hudson said Walmart has always done well there and that whoever else comes in is going to do well.

He has asked city commissioners to update code and zoning issues for the area to prepare for redevelopment.

"I really, really hope that Gainesville gets ahead of the curve in order that when developers come to town we can describe to them what we can do instead of the standard, which is to tell them what they can't do," he said.

Anthony Clark is the Gainesville Sun business editor.

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