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Publix close to breaking ground

The developer building a new Publix has assured city officials that it’s close to breaking ground on the grocery chain’s first store in Hendersonville.

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Tom Vincent, president of Halvorsen Development, said in an email to City Manager John Connet on Friday that the contractor hopes to start construction by mid-June. Among other permitting issues, Halvorsen had to file a separate request to build in a floodplain after the Federal Emergency Management Agency turned down its application for a no-rise permit.
Halvorsen still must get the blessing of the N.C. Department of Transportation and after that final staff approval from the city planning department. The top NCDOT engineer for Henderson County confirmed that Publix could get its permit within a week.
“They have told us they are ready to break ground and they’re hoping it will be in the middle of June,” Councilman Ron Stephens said. “It’s very good news. A lot of people have been anticipating this for a long time. They have a lot of customers that have been doing business with them a long time that have moved up from Florida.”
The news that Publix is moving ahead with its first Hendersonville store comes amid persistent rumors that it had pulled out because of permitting delays. That was unlikely, given that the supermarket chain had invested $6 million to buy the property and two years in site planning and permitting.
“They thought it was a good idea to start with,” Stephens said. “The market’s still here. They’ve been through the headache part of it and now they’re ready to start. They’ve had to put the time and effort into getting federal approval and state approval and us approving it.”
A Publix spokeswoman confirmed that the project is alive.
“We do not have a construction start date, but are working through the permitting process currently,” said Kim Reynolds, Charlotte division media and communications manager. “Many factors affect construction including weather and permitting, so it is difficult to share how long construction will take.”
NCDOT District Engineer Steve Cannon said his agency is close to issuing a permit.
“They are still moving ahead with that driveway permit,” he said. “We are very near issuing that permit. As of this morning one of our last comments came in.” The NCDOT required that Publix build a left turn lane for northbound traffic at the southern-most entrance into the parking lot. “I think we’ll probably have it issued within a week,” Cannon said.
Stephens said people around town frequently ask him about the project.
“I think it’s a combination of being on city council and being in the real estate business,” he said. “People think I’ve got the inside track. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.”
Despite the proliferation of grocery stores at the corner of Greenville and Spartanburg highways, competition can only drive higher quality, he said.
Publix would join a grocery war that’s already hot at the city’s south gateway. Ingles has just opened a new store a few hundred yards away, offering a floral center, a Starbucks, deli counter, hot food bar and other amenities, while Harris Teeter and Fresh Market also compete for the food shoppers’ dollar.