Brace yourselves, citizens of South Tampa. At some point in 2014, the Trader Joe’s grocery store will open on West Swann Avenue, and here is your official warning about potential parking mayhem — at least around opening day.
Lest this alarm sound alarmist, here’s a point to consider. When Trader Joe’s opened its first South Florida location this week in the Pinecrest area of Miami, so many people clogged the parking lot that traffic overflowed into strip centers nearby. Fifty-five cars ended up being towed, including one owned by a retired judge.
One towing victim was Arthur Rosenberg who told the Miami Herald that he wasn’t even a Trader Joe’s customer — just someone having lunch nearby at the Roasters ‘N’ Toasters deli. “I was furious,” he told the Herald. Eventually, he was able to reclaim his car, “but what about all the other people who are being towed recklessly, who don’t have the fortune to pay the fine, and who don’t have the credibility [of a former judge] to bolster their case.”
Here in Tampa, there are some signs that any potential parking issue may ease up over time, at least mathematically speaking.
The new Trader Joe’s site in Tampa on Swann Avenue is just a few yards off South Dale Mabry Highway, and will encompass about 13,000 square feet of space inside, and zoning documents illustrate a plan for 70 parking spaces outside. That’s a ratio of one parking space for every 185 square feet of interior space. By comparison, the regularly crowded Publix grocery store at South Dale Mabry Highway and West Neptune Boulevard often sees its parking lot filled to capacity, and that store has roughly one parking space for every 333 square feet of space inside. This means the Trader Joe’s may have almost twice as many spaces available, relatively speaking.
One factor that could intensify the parking density for Trader Joe’s: Opening Hours. While Publix stores tend to open at 7 a.m. and close at 10 p.m., Trader Joe’s Typically opens fewer hours, opening at 8 a.m. and closing at 9 p.m.
For now, construction on the Trader Joe’s site is moving along. The four cinder block walls of the new grocery store are now up at the site on West Swann Avenue. This would be the first store in the wider Tampa region.
Trader Joe’s is famously secretive about its plans, and officially, company executives will only say the store is set to open in 2014, leaving the quirky grocery store’s rabid fan base guessing about the opening date. Though individual stores tend to be especially petite, Trader Joe’s tends to engender fierce loyalty among shoppers, many of whom in Tampa drive to the location already open in Sarasota.