Neighbors worried by Trader Joe's parking in Tampa

South Tampa, FL -- Less than two days and counting until the grand opening of the new Trader Joe's in South Tampa.

That's good news for the store's almost cult-like following, but it has neighbors in the already traffic-challenged South Tampa area worried.

The new Trader Joe's, located at the corner of Swann and Dale Mabry, has 70 parking spaces. And you can be sure for people who are driving all the way from Polk County, Pasco, or even points beyond to check it out, they're going to park somewhere -- even if the lot is full.

If the grand opening of this Trader Joe's goes anything like the others before it, the parking lot may be overflowing with the culinary curious. That's why surrounding businesses have already put up new signs, even fences, warning people that if you use their spots you risk being towed.

"We hope not to have to do that and everyone can just respect each other's space," said Rachel Smith, director at Star Gate Children's Academy directly across the street.

Smith wants to be sure parents can drop off and pick up their children without trouble.

Residents in the surrounding neighborhood are concerned too -- mostly about cars parking on their lawns, in their driveways, or lining the streets in such high density that it could choke off access for emergency vehicles if needed.

"I know when they first opened in Sarasota there was just an influx of people parking all over the streets so, I know there will probably be a lot of excitement and a lot of people coming by," said neighbor Christina Garcia.

"If there are parking issues, if there is improper parking on people's roadways, grass, whatever it may be. Give us a call," said Tampa Police Spokesperson Andrea Davis, "We will be sending officers out there."

Trader Joe's, no stranger to such concerns, met proactively with Tampa police a week ago to hire extra enforcement, not only for the grand opening but during projected busy periods over the next month.

"Typically, when a new store opens, traffic volume is higher than normal and eventually lessens," said Aimee Pawelek, manager of the new Trader Joe's store.

Pawelek says Trader Joe's is also beefing up its check-out staff to keep customers moving efficiently.

To make traffic issues worse, the store's grand opening weekend coincides with the big Air Show at MacDill Air Force Base, which means that much more traffic will be moving up and down Dale Mabry.

Because of that, Tampa Police will also have the department's Special Events Task Force on location to try to keep things moving a bit more smoothly.


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