Publix Super Markets, an eager buyer of shopping centers it anchors in Southwest Florida, has bagged another one.

Publix paid $17.9 million for the Lakewood Ranch Gateway in the sprawling master-planned development.

The Lakeland-based grocery chain earlier this month acquired the 20-acre property at the southeast corner of State Road 64 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, according to court documents.

Publix is the largest store at the plaza, which totals about 70,000 square feet. Other tenants include Verizon, Beef O'Bradys, Bank of America and McDonald's.

The plaza, built in 2001, was sold by a subsidiary of DDR, a publicly traded real estate investment trust in Beechwood, Ohio, that also owns the Cortez Plaza and Creekwood Crossing centers in Manatee County. It says it owns and manages 273 retail properties totaling 92 million square feet.

In recent years, Publix has been buying up shopping centers where it operates stores in Southwest Florida and across the state. It paid $86 million in 2014 and 2015 for a half-dozen centers, from Parrish to Port Charlotte, including two in Lakewood Ranch.

Publix spokesman Brian West said the grocer now owns about 10 shopping centers that it anchors in the Sarasota-Manatee region.

"There's just no better investment than investing in ourselves," he said.

In 2016 the chain paid $42 million for Bayshore Gardens, the Bradenton center where it has been a tenant since it opened in late 1959.

Publix said this month in its annual report that it plans to invest $1.5 billion this year in buying shopping centers with Publix stores as the anchor tenant, remodeling existing supermarkets and buying information technology hardware and software.