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ORLANDO-The first grocery store to be built Downtown in 20 years is more than a longtime vision of elected officials today. The Community Redevelopment Advisory Board, a city agency, has approved locally based Thornton Park Partners’ planned $75-million, 16-story, mixed-use venture near Lake Eola Park. The project would house 312 condominium homes, 3,000 sf office and 5,000 sf of retail.

The planned grocery would be 29,000 sf and probably operated by Publix Supermarkets Inc. of Lakeland, FL, area retail brokers tell GlobeSt.com. Publix, one of the leading grocers in the Southeast, declines comment on the project. Suburban Publix stores are generally in the 40,000-sf-to-48,000-sf range. The development site is at Central Boulevard and Lake Avenue.

The agency also approved $3.7 million in economic incentives and tax breaks to developer Kevin Lawler’s firm. The city council will review the venture for the first time in mid-November. Area retail consultants tell GlobeSt.com the project will probably get a unanimous vote of approval because council members have been trying to land a supermarket Downtown since Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. pulled out in 1984.

Winn-Dixie vacated its Magnolia Avenue store when customer traffic began falling off, making the store unprofitable for the Jacksonville, FL-based company. At that time, fewer than 5,000 workers staffed Downtown offices.

Today, however, an estimated 40,000 office workers are employed Downtown with about 30% of them living near their workplaces in new apartments and condos, according to various estimates by local independent planners and city staffs.

With more than $1 billion in new condo and office projects planned or getting ready to surface in the central business district over the next two years, a new Downtown supermarket can expect to draw from a projected customer base of about 50,000 residents and commuters, independent retail industry planners tell GlobeSt.com.

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