Publix planned at gateway to the Keys

While plans for a Publix supermarket in Islamorada remain tied up in court, a location in Florida City could be ready for shoppers by the fall of 2017.

Gadinsky Real Estate LLC, the developer for the owners of the 18 acres on the east side of U.S. 1 between East Palm Drive and Southeast 1st Avenue, is preparing the final aspects of its site plan to submit to Florida City for approval.

"It's been very well received by the community and the local government," said Justin Schultz with Gadinsky Real Estate.

Florida City Mayor Otis Wallace said his constituents are “overwhelmingly in favor” of the proposal.

“It will provide jobs, and Publix is a store grocery shoppers love,” Wallace said Thursday.

Along with approval from the Florida City Commission, the developers must get approval from the Florida Department of Transportation for access from U.S. 1 and Miami-Dade County for access along East Palm Drive.

If all goes to plan, construction could begin by Jan. 1, 2017, Schultz said.

The building of the store would also mean the end of the Mutineer Wharf Restaurant, a landmark South Florida eatery for those traveling through Florida City for the past four decades. The land is owned, and will continue to be owned, by the Allan Bennett Corp., headquartered in Coral Gables. Publix will lease the land.

For now, Gadinsky is focusing on getting the Publix approved, but the store is ultimately the first retail operation in what will become the Gateway Key Center, Schultz said.

"There's a lot of interest in the balance of the property, but we don't know what that looks like yet," he said.

The supermarket is planned to be 45,000 square feet, sitting on a little more than eight acres, Schultz said. There will still be 12,250 square feet left for shopping space.

The Publix plan calls for 302 parking spaces, and there will be access from U.S. 1 and East Palm Drive.

Meanwhile, litigation continues to prevent Publix from building a 34,062-square-foot, 161-parking-space store at mile marker 83 on Upper Matecumbe Key. The five-member Islamorada Village Council unanimously approved the site plan in September 2014, but some residents, including the Bay Hammock Homeowners Association and a group called Keep Islamorada Peaceful Prosperous and Safe, sued in county circuit court to block construction.

They say it is too large for the village commercial zoning and that it is out of character with the rest of Islamorada businesses. The litigants’ opinion is at odds with the village planning department.

Village Planning Director Cheryl Cioffari and her staff concluded that according to their interpretation of village code, the supermarket is a fit for the property. The 4.6-acre footprint is home to six defunct businesses, so the land is already primed for a commercial business to occupy the space, according to the planning department.