Palm Coast residents want a Costco, or a Sam’s Club, or a BJ’s Wholesale Club. I know this because I’ve heard rumors about one or the other coming to Palm Coast for the last four years. Costco rumors are as persistent (and reliable) as local politician’s promises to do something about economic development.
(The nearest Costco is in Jacksonville. The nearest Sam’s Club is in Daytona Beach.)
The latest Costco rumor goes something like this: “Costco is coming to Palm Coast. The city has already approved the project to be built on the northeast corner of Seminole Woods Parkway and U.S. 1.”
Like all really good rumors, this one contains a kernel of truth. Gus Simos, manager of Palm Coast Seminole Group LLC and owner of the 85-acre parcel, has been trying to market the property on U.S. 1 to Costco and others for quite some time. There was an underlying problem however: The parcel’s multifamily zoning did not match up to the intended retail use. In the interest of good-faith marketing, the property’s zoning needed to be changed.
The City Council approved a change from high intensity commercial (Com-3) and multifamily residential (MFR-2) in part to master-planned development district (MPD) at its Aug. 16 meeting. The newly designated MPD will be called Seminole Pointe.
The master-planned development is now properly zoned for either a shopping center or a “big box” retailer. In a quid pro quo, the city will ask the developer of the parcel to complete a second road into neighboring Integra Woods, the 310-unit apartment complex on Seminole Woods Parkway abutting the east edge of Seminole Pointe. The city would also like to see a third access to Integra Woods, that one being from U.S. 1.
Representatives of both Costco and Sam’s Club have looked at the Seminole Woods Parkway location, as well as other locations in Flagler County. The success of Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson-anchored complex at the U.S. 1-Interstate-95 interchange has created an economic magnet, enhancing the potential for commercial development northward along U.S. 1, especially south of Bunnell.
But, however suited a Flagler County site may be, nothing will move forward until the population, demographics and economy are in alignment with the retailer’s current goals.
Right now, that hasn’t happened. Flagler County has too many unemployed residents and too few new rooftops under construction. This is the same reasoning behind the delay in the start of construction of Walmart’s new supercenter on Old Kings Road.
Regarding related rumors, I can offer some clarification. The existing (old) Walmart will not be converted to a Sam’s Wholesale Club. The building’s ceiling is too low for the forklift-stocked Sam’s Clubs.
The company plans to keep it open as a Walmart store. Sam’s Club has also looked at the parcel next the location of the new Walmart, on Old Kings Road. (The Daytona Beach Sam’s Club is located adjacent to a Walmart store.)
Both Sam’s Club and Costco have toured multiple potential Flagler County sites. Both have expressed an interest in a future location in the county. They are simply waiting for a better economy and more rooftops.
Gus Simos is supporting a local effort to build grass-roots support to encourage Costco to accelerate the company’s decision. A Facebook fan page, Causefor Costco already has more than 300 fans, and a marketing video is in production. The goal is to get Costco executives to visit Palm Coast, where they will receive a hearty welcome and a rolled-out carpet.
Maybe the squeaky wheel will get the oil. In an unscientific survey on GoToby.com, readers were asked “Which wholesale club would you prefer come to Palm Coast first?” With about 400 responses through Sept, 18, Costco is the clear favorite, garnering 63.54% of the vote. Second place, with 17.16%, goes to “I don’t care which one is first. I just want one now.”