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Publix passes on Encore as downtown store site

Published:   |   Updated: March 13, 2013 at 11:09 AM

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Scratch at least one location downtown off the list of potential sites for a Publix.

Officials with the grocery giant have told developers with the Encore housing project that they won't be placing a store at the government-backed housing site just north of downtown.

The Tampa Housing Authority had long hoped a grocer would occupy a yet-to-be-built commercial building on the site, and developers with the project had pursued Publix.

The decision presents a special challenge for developers there because the Publix exit could narrow the list of potential candidates to Walmart, Sweetbay and Winn-Dixie, none of which have announced major plans to expand downtown.

Publix officials recently told one of the developers in the project, Tailwinds, that they'll pass on the Encore site, said Leroy Moore, Housing Authority chief operating officer, though he added, "We have hopes of another quality grocer coming to Encore."

Officials with Publix could not be reached for comment, but they've recently said they were interested in locations downtown and have mentioned the Channel District area as a possibility, although nothing has been formalized.

"They've been circling downtown for a while," said Tampa Urban Development Manager Bob McDonaugh. "At one point, they looked at some property owned by the Port Authority, though that didn't work out."

The Bayshore Boulevard Publix is already "congested," as McDonaugh phrases it, so he expects Publix will continue looking downtown.

rmullins@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7919 Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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