The city’s negotiations with grocers to keep Jacksonville’s Brentwood area on the Northside from becoming a food desert appear to be working.
Wednesday, District 7 City Councilman Reggie Gaffney said he expects Winn-Dixie will open in the space at the Gateway Town Center that is occupied by Publix, with the help of $850,000 in city incentives.
Publix announced last month it will close its Brentwood store on December 28.
That ultimatedly prompted bill 2019-870 to be introduced Tuesday at the request of Mayor Lenny Curry.
Gaffney is co-sponsoring the legislation with Councilman Sam Newby, and it would appropriate the money from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund for Winn-Dixie to go into the shopping center at 5210 Norwood Avenue.
“While Publix may be leaving, it creates an opportunity for other grocery stores to build a new relationship with the good people in Brentwood. Winn-Dixie is going to be that business. I am excited to have a grocery store who wants to be in District 7,” Gaffney said Wednesday in an email to WJCT News.
Winn-Dixie is owned by Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers, which also operates a nearby Harveys at 201 W. 48th St. The two stores are approximately a mile apart. A food desert is defined as any urban area in which at least a third of the residents live a mile or more from a grocery store, according to Duval County Medical Society President Sunil Joshi.
“We believe this story will have a very happy ending in the first quarter of 2020,” Southeastern Grocers spokesman Joe Caldwell told WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record when asked to confirm that Winn-Dixie had come to a lease agreement at Gateway.
The city had also been negotiating with Rowe’s IGA Supermarket, but owner Rob Rowe ultimately decided against leasing the space, according to the Record.
The bill still has to be voted on by the Jacksonville City Council.
For Winn-Dixie, opening at the Gateway Town Center would be a homecoming. The shopping center originally opened in 1959, according to ModernCities.com, with Winn-Dixie as one of Gateway's original tenants.
Gaffney expects the vote and the transition from a Publix to a Winn-Dixie happen relatively quickly, echoing what Caldwell said.
“I anticipate them to open during the first quarter of 2020,” Gaffney said.