Publix to begin demolition on contentious Islamorada site

Development would include 34,000-square-foot store and 162-space parking lot

Aug.August 17, 2015 02:15 PM

Publix will begin demolishing the 10 buildings that sit on its planned market site in Islamorada before the end of the month, The Real Deal has learned.

Most notably, the buildings include the former Fish Bowl bowling alley, which closed in 2012, and the Coral Grill, a decaying Islamorada landmark that closed more than 15 years ago.

Publix attorney Andy Tobin said contractors will water the site prior to the tear-down to help with dust control.

“Publix is going the extra mile to make sure the demolition is done in a safe manner and with as little disruption, dust and noise as possible,” Tobin told TRD. He added that the demolition is expected to take a month.

Plans call for the Publix, at 83265 Overseas Highway, to be 34,000 square feet. A 162-space parking lot will be located on the Fish Bowl property, while the market will be to the south, where the Coral Grill and the smaller buildings currently sit.

Construction of the market would end a more than decade-long quest by Publix to open an Islamorada location. But even as the Lakeland-based corporation prepares for the demolition, it continues to fight a legal challenge from neighbors of the Upper Matecumbe Key market site, who argue that the planned building exceeds the size and intensity allowed under its Highway Commercial zoning designation. The planned location of the market’s loading docks are also in violation of village of Islamorada code, argue litigants Lori Blair, Beth Kaminstein, Bay Hammock Owners Association and Keep Islamorada Peaceful, Prosperous and Safe.

The litigants don’t object to the Publix site being cleared.

“Our issue is the Publix itself, not the demolition,” their attorney, Tucker Gibbs, told TRD.

He added that his clients’ next effort to block the market will come on Sept. 10, when the village council hears their appeal of a site plan amendment the council approved in May. Should the plaintiffs lose the appeal, they’ll likely amend their lawsuit to reflect the new site plan, Gibbs said.

Tobin estimated that the legal fight will be over and Publix will be able to start construction in six months.

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