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Demolition of the former A.V. Clubbs School in Pensacola’s East Hill neighborhood is well under way. The school, built in 1938, will soon be replaced with a new neighborhood Publix — among the first of its kind for the rapidly-growing supermarket chain.

The developer of the store, White Development Company, says the highly-anticipated grocery store will be sensitive to the neighborhood surroundings of East Hill. The 29,000 square foot store — about two-thirds the size of a traditional Publix — will be designed to abut Cervantes Street with parking in the rear. It will feature a bakery, deli, pharmacy and full range of groceries.

The store will also feature outdoor seating, bike racks, and pedestrian crosswalks, reflecting the walkable and bikeable nature of the neighborhood.

While much of the community is glad to see Publix investing in the East Hill neighborhood, some residents have expressed concerns about the company’s decision to raze the historic school. While developers weren’t able to reuse the existing building, they are salvaging bricks and other materials to reuse during construction of the new store.

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The former A.V. Clubbs School on 12th Avenue in East Hill, c. 1940. (Charles T Cottrell/Special to The Pulse)

The school’s namesake, Alexander Vice Clubbs, was a prominent builder, community leader, and patron of education. The building being demolished now is the second school bearing his name to come down in the last 20 years. The original A.V. Clubbs school was built in 1910 on the site of what is now the N.B. Cook Elementary School of the Arts on 12th Avenue, and later expanded as A.V. Clubbs Junior High School. The school closed in 1986, and both buildings were demolished in 1995 to make way for the new elementary school. In 2000, the A.V. Clubbs Alternative Middle School was established in the Cervantes Street building, formerly home to N.B. Cook.

The store, which will occupy a city block on Cervantes Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, will be the first of its kind in Pensacola. Most of the city’s grocery stores — including Publix stores on North 9th Avenue, in Bellview, and in Gulf Breeze — are decidedly suburban in character, featuring homogenous big-box design and large parking lots which front the street. The East Hill store, on the other hand, will be more like Publix’s stores in Downtown Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Atlanta, and other urban areas.

Publix’s current urban stores are about 28,000 square feet, and the company’s traditional stores are about 49,000 square feet. 

View of the new East Hill Publix looking west from 12th Avenue. (Courtesy White Development Company)

View of the new East Hill Publix looking west from 12th Avenue. (Courtesy White Development Company)

A grocery store would be a popular amenity for the increasing number of people choosing to live in Pensacola’s urban core, where there are few options for traditional grocers.

 One of Pensacola’s fastest growing neighborhoods, East Hill’s density and recent growth made it an attractive location, according to the developer, Jim White. He also referenced the City’s Urban Redevelopment Advisory Committee report, which called for the city to pursue a downtown grocery store, as support for the project. “Publix was not serving Downtown Pensacola as well as they would like to be,” White said. “I’m really proud to do this store. As a developer, I don’t always get an opportunity to do a unique project like this.”

Construction of the new store expected to be completed by early next year.

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View looking north from Cervantes Street. (Courtesy White Development Company)

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View looking south from Strong Street. (Courtesy White Development Company)

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View looking east from 11th Avenue (Courtesy White Development Company)

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