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Big retailers made their mark on Citrus County in 2012 as major stores opened, closed, changed locations or started construction.
One large store almost completed in 2012 was Citrus County’s third Walmart, at the southwest corner of County Roads 491 and 486 in Lecanto.
A bus stop has been built, employees are being trained, shelves are being stocked, new traffic lights are up and the landscaping is in place.
The store is scheduled to open at the end of January, according to Walmart spokeswoman Delia Garcia. Store manager Tom Cooper described it as a medium-sized store, not a Walmart Supercenter like the store in Inverness.
“It is right in line with other Walmarts,” he said.
It will be a little more than 116,000 square feet and compares more to the new Walmart store in Homosassa. That store opened last April, replacing one at another Homosassa location.
The new store will have a drive-through pharmacy, which the Inverness location does not have, and a Subway restaurant inside the store.
The new Walmart anchors a shopping center development called Central Ridge Plaza, located on approximately 40 acres. Gulf to Lakes Associates Inc. sold the site to the big-box retailer and is co-developer with Walmart for the infrastructure. Early plans called for the Walmart and at least seven smaller stores.
There is strong national interest in the location, according to Joe Cappuccilli, executive vice president of Gulf to Lakes Associates Inc. He said they have gone under contract with a national developer to buy the entire site. Details on the arrangement are under a confidentiality agreement.
In November, the first step was taken for the possible building of a large — as yet unnamed — retail store on County Road 486, across the road and northwest of the new Walmart. The county Planning and Development Commission approved a request for a comprehensive plan amendment to allow the development.
The new Homosassa Walmart, located at the intersection of U.S. 19 and West Cardinal Street, is approximately 51,000 square feet larger than the older store it replaced. The new store was described as a prototype with a more customer-friendly ambiance than some of the larger Walmart Supercenters.
Another retail replacement project started in late 2012 as Benderson Development, a privately-held nationwide real estate company headquartered in Sarasota, broke ground for the new Publix in Inverness.
Earth work has already started on the 8-acre site between Montgomery Avenue, State Road 44 and U.S. 41, in sight of the Sweetbay sign. That grocery store is located one block west. The construction site was formerly occupied by Welch Cabinets and Appliances, a longtime local family business, and a RE/MAX real estate office.
The new store will be 46,013 square feet, with a drive-through pharmacy, and will be about 20 percent larger than the existing Inverness Publix.
The project, called the Publix Shoppes of Inverness, was almost two years in the planning stage. However, neither Publix’s corporate office nor the developers would confirm plans for the store until a groundbreaking was announced in December.
“Benderson is thrilled to be building its first shopping center in Citrus County, our first shopping center in Inverness,” Todd Mathes, Benderson director of development said at the groundbreaking, “This has been a great community to work with.”
In October, county commissioners gave the go-ahead Tuesday to build a new Dollar General store in Citronelle. As of August 2012, eight Dollar General stores were already open for business in Citrus County with six more in the works. And Family Dollar opened a new store in Crystal River and one just north of Hernando.
Despite the new Homosassa Walmart, Citrus County’s retail news was not so good earlier in 2012, as the Sears store, an anchor at the Crystal River Mall, closed on April 30. The closing came following a December 2011 announcement by Sears Holding Company that it would be closing a total 100 to 120 stores nationwide after a disappointing fourth quarter.
Sears’ closing came shortly after the mall changed hands in March. Mike Kohen of Crystal River Mall Realty Management purchased Crystal River Mall for $3 million from Boxer Retail, the Dallas-based receiver that had taken over management of the mall in 2011. Boxer took over after the mall had been in foreclosure since February 2011.
With the change of ownership, new general manager Millie Bresnahan focused efforts on making repairs, attracting new tenants and revitalizing its image. In addition, the mall has been hosting a number of events to bring people back.
Contact Chronicle reporter Pat Faherty at 352-564-2924 or email@example.com.