A few weeks ago, ALDI began site preparation to construct a 19,000-square-foot store in the Statesboro Crossing shopping center off the Brannen Connecter between Soyumi and Steak’n Shake on the undeveloped outparcel.
Days later, local entrepreneur Darin Van Tassell held a ground breaking for Tormenta Stadium where the USL League One soccer team would begin play in 2020. At the groundbreaking Van Tassell also announced that construction would begin on a bond-funded road, supported by a newly established local Tax Allocation District (TAD) on property near The Clubhouse at the bypass and Old Register Road.
Also, Van Tassell announced a shopping center that would be anchored by a Publix grocery store. He cautioned the audience that even though these incredible additions are coming, “It will be a minute. The community must be patient as we move forward,” Van Tassell said.
There have been no property sold, site plans, or building permits issued for either the stadium or the shopping center at this time.
At the ground breaking, no representatives from Publix nor Publix’s developer were in attendance. The TAD-funded construction is moving forward on the road in good faith based on a letter of intent from Publix to the developer of the shopping center. The letter of intent included a list of conditions that have to be met before they would move forward with construction. One major condition are the road improvements to Old Register Road and also an access road being built, which has begun.
Dwaine Stevens, media and community relations manager with Publix Super Markets confirmed, “Publix does not have a signed lease at the described location.” The good news is that there is “strong interest” from Publix to return to Statesboro as identified by the letter of intent.
This is the second time the same Publix developer has put land under contract to build a Publix in Statesboro. The first one did not materialize and now J.C. Lewis Ford occupies that location. According to Robert Tanner, the former owner of the land, developers representing Walmart Super Center, Super Bi-Lo and Kroger and Publix all placed contracts on the property.
One of our community’s biggest near misses grocery store wise according to site plans filed with the City of Statesboro in 2016 was a 115,000-square-foot Kroger with a fuel center that was to be built between Soyumi and Vaden Nissan. But plans fell through.
A few days after Publix announcement, there was an unsourced announcement by a local social media outlet that stated Kroger would be reentering the market and building on the land being cleared on the bypass adjacent to the new J.C. Lewis Ford. Hundreds of people shared this unconfirmed story.
What seemed too good to be true proved to be just that.
“We are currently not looking at sites in Statesboro. At this time we are only able to invest in existing markets,” said Felix B. Turner, corporate affairs manager, Kroger Atlanta.
The recently cleared site beside the new J.C. Lewis has caused a huge amount of speculation because of the large amount of work being done. I have reached out to the local contact for more information, multiple times with no response. According to a source with knowledge of the project, a group of investors has purchased the land, which was formally a lumber processing company. They removed the structures from the site and are now working to prepare the site to market for future development.
This is much the same as we are seeing on Highway 301 South just past I-16, which is the location of Bulloch County’s newest industrial park. There has been a tremendous amount of activity at this location, including the widening and 301 to add turn lanes and an entrance into the industrial park. All of this work is being done speculatively to make the site marketable to prospective industries.
In 2014, the city of Statesboro contracted with Retail Strategies to do market research to see what businesses were needed in our community and to develop a marketing plan to help recruit these businesses.
One of the most interesting parts of their research was a GAP analysis, which is a summary of the primary spending gaps in several retail categories. By comparing actual consumer spending in the Statesboro's trade area to potential spending, the analysis determined the loss of revenue outside our trade area for certain goods and services.
Grocery stores led the GAP analysis five years ago with a potential $56 million in lost revenue.
Through their research and peer analysis of comparable cities Retail Strategies, identified six national grocery chains that should be targeted, including Publix, Kroger, ALDI, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Sprouts and Ingles.
Fast forward five years and we have seen the entrance of Food World through the acquisition of Harvey’s stores, the construction of a Walmart Market and ALDI breaking ground, in addition to Publix. Bi-Lo also completed a major store renovation.
Even though we have gained a lot of ground in the past five years of filling the GAP created by the need for more grocery options, it is exciting to see major chains like ALDI and Publix entering or having “strong interest” in entering the market. This is a very positive sign of continued growth in our community.