Publix appears to be pushing the reset button on a proposed new South Broad Street supermarket in Chattanooga.
The company has decided to defer a planned January hearing before the Chattanooga Board of Zoning Appeals. That panel was slated to rehear a developer's proposal to put the store at South Broad and St. Elmo Avenue.
Mike Price, president of MAP Engineers, said the grocer is "going to consider its options and then decide whether to continue to pursue this development as proposed."
"The proposed grocery tenant has decided to defer any further consideration and action with the Board of Zoning Appeals at this time," said Price, who has been representing developer Alliance Realty Services.
Jim Johnson of Chattanoogans for Responsible Development said he's hopeful Publix isn't abandoning a store on the site of the former Mt. Vernon restaurant.
"If they're planning to come back with something more appropriate for the site and community, that would be fantastic," he said. "I'm a big fan of Publix."
Garnet Chapin, who lives in the area, said Publix not building a store in the South Broad corridor would be "a darned shame."
"I strongly support having the Publix there and working through the variance process and getting something that would be a tremendous magnet for the community," he said. "It would be a big plus."
Alliance Realty had originally sought a C-2 rezoning of the 4-acre tract for the planned supermarket in favor of the current urban general commercial zoning.
But some people in the area objected to the developer putting the building at the rear of the lot with parking in front. They wanted to keep existing zoning, which would enable the store to go up close to the street and ultimately bolster property values in the neighborhood, they said.
In July, the city's Planning Commission voted in favor of keeping existing zoning but granting a variance related to the size of the planned store, along with some small shop space on the tract. But the project still needed Board of Zoning Appeals approvals to move ahead.
That panel in November voted against granting those approvals, but then earlier this month reversed that decision and agreed to rehear the case.
Johnson said he's hopeful that Publix does as it has in other cities where it has built an "urban-edge" setting, rather than a suburban one as has been proposed on South Broad.
"I hope they don't go to another location," he said. "No one is against Publix. We're fighting for the right development of the supermarket. There's a tremendous opportunity where there would be a win-win across the board."
Chapin, however, said that making Publix move the store up to South Broad is an idea that "is not well thought out."
"It would be a shame if they withdrew," said Chapin, who said he has about 50 years experience as an architect and urban planner. "I strongly support having the Publix there."
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.