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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Nov. 12, 201912:40 PM EST

Council member says Winn-Dixie likely will open in Gateway

Reggie Gaffney said the grocery store would replace Publix, which closes Dec. 28.
District 7 City Council member Reggie Gaffney

District 7 City Council member Reggie Gaffney said Tuesday he expects Winn-Dixie to open in January in the Gateway Town Center space that Publix Super Markets Inc. will vacate Dec. 28.

“We are on third base ready to cross the plate on Winn-Dixie,” Gaffney said about the store in the Brentwood area of Jacksonville.

Gaffney said city Office of Economic Development Executive Director Kirk Wendland is talking with Winn-Dixie about city funding available to ensure the area does not become a food desert. 

"The Office of Economic Development has had discussions with both the owner and some potential future operators of the Publix space at Gateway," Wendland said in a statement. "They have all been informed of our Northwest Jacksonville Full Service Grocery Store program, which would be available to assist them with capital buildout costs.”

An urban food desert is an area without a full-service supermarket within one mile. City Council earmarked $3 million from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund to assist grocers to move into neighborhoods without access.

Gaffney specified that a Winn-Dixie store would take the space and not its sister brand, Harveys Supermarkets. Both banners are part of Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers Inc. 

Publix operates at 5210 Norwood Ave. in Gateway. Harveys operates about a mile away.

Gaffney said that he or Mayor Lenny Curry will soon file legislation for the deal that Wendland strikes with Winn-Dixie. 

“I feel real good about it,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney said previously the city could offer the next tenant for the Publix space $500,000 to $700,000 from the fund. He said Tuesday he did not know the value of the incentives that could be offered to Winn-Dixie.

The council member said he has been speaking with Gateway’s landlord, Gator Investments, two or three times a week since the Publix announcement.

“They realize the urgency of this,” he said.

Southeastern Grocers, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, could receive city incentives to open a store in the closed Publix space at Gateway Town Center.

Rowe’s IGA Supermarkets owner Rob Rowe said Oct. 31 he had a letter of intent with the landlord to open at Gateway but he said Sunday he dropped the deal because of the lease terms he was offered.

Gator Investments has not responded to requests for comment.

Gaffney said Publix was paying $19,000 a month and could have kept that rate. Publix hasn’t elaborated about why it will close at Gateway after 20 years other than that its lease was expiring and there are other factors that influence a decision to close.

Gaffney said rent was not going to be an issue with the Winn-Dixie deal. “Gateway has assured me that is not going to be a hindrance in negotiations,” he said.

He said Publix will leave the equipment and sell the food inventory to the incoming grocer. The store is 28,120 square feet, which is one of the chain’s smaller footprints.

“At first I was angry at Publix but at the same time I have lots of respect because they are going to leave everything in that store to whoever is going to lease that space,” Gaffney said.

He varied from 90 to 99%certainty that Winn-Dixie would open at Gateway in January.

“Winn-Dixie is working with the city and the city is willing to make this work,” he said.

Southeastern Grocers spokesman Joe Caldwell repeated Tuesday what he said previously about the Publix space.

“SEG is always looking at opportunities to serve communities throughout our footprint. This particular opportunity is a unique situation and we’re currently doing our due diligence to assess how we can potentially meet the needs of all parties involved,” Caldwell said.

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