By Melanie Patterson
North Jefferson News
GARDENDALE — There’s a new sign in town.
It is actually covering part of an old sign, and it’s a welcome sight for Gardendale residents.
In place of the “coming soon” promise on the Publix sign at the Northgate Shopping Center is a banner announcing a “community groundbreaking celebration.”
The city has been promising, and waiting on, the popular grocery store since 2008.
The Publix conversation has had all the ups and downs of a roller coaster, and the topic had become the subject of jokes in north Jefferson County. In April, the city of Fultondale hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Aldi grocery store and announced it with a big sign stating, “coming sooner.”
“We’ve endured skepticism and jokes, even though we all knew we were working hard to make this happen,” said Gardendale City Council President Stan Hogeland in a press release earlier this month. He announced on July 1 during a council meeting that the project was finally moving forward, after five years of delays.
Spurring the momentum is the purchase of the property by Preferred Growth Properties (PGP), a subsidiary of Books-A-Million Inc. PGP bought the property from Century Retail.
At that time, the city of Gardendale had committed to loaning Century Retail $2.85 million for the development, which was to be repaid by the developer and which the city itself was borrowing.
However, the city will reportedly not have to loan PGP money in order to develop the property.
Also helping with the negotiations was Jack Fields of Gardendale, whom the city contracted in March as a facilitator to represent Gardendale in talks with the developer.
As the sign at the Northgate Shopping Center states, the groundbreaking ceremony set for July 30, 6:30-8:30 p.m., is meant to be a community-wide celebration.
The Greater Gardendale Chamber of Commerce is organizing the event, which will include live entertainment, food, children’s activities and more.
As Mayor Othell Phillips pointed out, several steps must be taken before construction on Publix starts. Crews will extend the strip mall to the south; the new structure will be for Dollar Tree.
“That’s where the process will begin,” Hogeland said. When Dollar Tree moves in, possibly by October, demolition and construction for Publix will start. The grocery store will be built where Dollar Tree and the former Goody’s (now closed) are located.
Hogeland said that legal issues between Dollar Tree and the former developer are resolved.
In the meantime, Phillips said, preliminary work has already been started at the site, including an evaluation to determine if construction of the new Dollar Tree building will require blasting.
Publix is not the only new store coming to the shopping center, which will likely be renamed.
T.J. Maxx will occupy the empty space next to Hobby Lobby, and another store will be built on the other side of T.J. Maxx, according to Hogeland.
The entire shopping center will be remodeled.
“There are a lot of moving parts, but I assure you, they are moving,” Hogeland said.
Wells Fargo Bank, which is in the Dollar Tree parking lot unattached to the strip mall, will be unaffected by the development, Hogeland said. He said the other businesses to the north of Dollar Tree should also be unaffected, including Head Start, Nail Model, Republic Finance and H&R Block.
In addition to the upgrades and additions to the strip mall and Hobby Lobby building, Hogeland said some out-parcels closer to Odum Road will also be developed within the confines of the Publix project.
The city has not announced the names of other businesses to move into the shopping center.