MANATEE -- A new grocery store could be making its way to Cortez Road if Manatee County approves plans filed by Benderson Development Co.
University Park-based Benderson Development has filed plans to demolish 25,000 square feet of the shopping center to make room for a 44,670-square-foot grocery store. No announcement has been made for which grocery store will be coming to the Home Depot-anchored shopping center, 2108 Cortez Road W.
The center is largely vacant and includes Aaron's, Grand China Buffet and Lakeside Barber Shop. Benderson acquired the center in 2012 from Kimco Realty Corp. for $1.7 million, according to property records.
Many of those units have been vacant for years, according to business owners in the shopping center.
Grand China Buffet already has plans to move to The Fountains shopping center at 4848 14th St. W., in November, buffet manager Michael Dong said. The Fountains is undergoing renovations by Ian Black Real Estate, and the Chinese restaurant is expected to be part of the turnaround for that mostly empty shopping center.
The buffet is on a month-to-month lease, Dong said, and expects to close in October or early November for the move. Grand China called Lakeside Plaza home for 15 years, Dong said, and is looking forward to having a more upscale dining room and new uniforms for employees.
"It'll be buffet prices, but it will be a nice dining experience," Dong said. Grand China has plans for an indoor fish pond, a hibachi grill, and U-shaped sushi bar, a party room and better lighting, he added.
At Lakeside Barber Shop, owner Pat Gannon will have to find a new spot after spending 23 years in Lakeside Plaza. He previously worked at a barber shop in Bayshore Gardens Shopping Center. His lease is up in May and wasn't renewed, he said.
"I hope to stay until then," Gannon said. "We'll see."
On the west end of the shopping center, a former Appliance Depot sits vacant with 56,856 square feet offered by Sarasota firm D'Agostino Real Estate for owner Home Depot USA. Squeezed in the middle is rent-to-own store Aaron's, which owns its building after taking out a $919,000 mortgage in 2008, according to property records.
A manager at Aaron's did not return requests for comment.
What remains to be seen is what grocery store will go there. Grocery stores would draw from more than 47,000 households in a 3-mile radius, with the average household income of $49,374, according to a demographic profile of the area posted by Benderson.
Mark Chait, Southeast director of leasing for Benderson, did not return a request for comment. Benderson shopping centers in the area offer grocery store anchors Publix, Winn-Dixie and The Fresh Market.
Cortez Road is already packed with grocery stores, with Winn-Dixie across the street, Aldi and Publix close by and Walmart Supercenter 3 miles west.
One possibility could be a Walmart Neighborhood Market despite the close proximity to a Supercenter.
A 41,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market is expected to open this fall on the corner of Bee Ridge and Beneva roads in Sarasota, only 3 miles away from a Supercenter on Cattlemen Road. While the plans and paperwork do not reveal any names, the layout of the entrance, cart return and attached store resembles the new layout of Walmart Neighborhood Markets that feature liquor stores.
"While we're always looking for new locations to better serve our customers, we have nothing to announce at this time regarding a new Neighborhood Market in Bradenton," said Walmart spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg.
Gannon said whatever Benderson chooses has to be different from what's already in the neighborhood.
"It would have to be something special here, right?" Gannon said.
Reviews and potential approval for the plan will be handled by Manatee County Building and Development Services staff and would not need review by the county commission.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.