LIFT JAX Inc. seeks city grant for Eastside grocery store

The nonprofit is partnering with Goodwill Inc. and VyStar to redevelop a property.

The former Debs Store at 1478 Florida Ave. (Google)
The former Debs Store at 1478 Florida Ave. (Google)
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LIFT JAX Inc. is seeking a $650,000 city food desert grant as part of a plan to transform the former Debs Store in Eastside into a nonprofit grocery and job training center.

LIFT JAX , Goodwill Inc. and VyStar Credit Union are partners in the proposed $2.4 million project at 1478 Florida Ave., according to a memo and project summary from the city Office of Economic Development.

Goodwill would operate the store to reintroduce fresh food offerings to the area north of the Downtown Sports and Entertainment District and offer employment services, the project summary states.

The Mayor’s Budget Review Committee is scheduled to consider the economic development’s office request Dec. 13. It could then introduce legislation with City Council to authorize the grant.

The grant would come from the Northwest Jacksonville Food Desert Fund and pay for 40% of the $1.5 million to develop the grocery store portion of the project.

Goodwill intends to convert the building’s top floor into a GoodCareers Center, a job skills facility, according to the project summary.

VyStar would install a walk-up ATM and provide access to financial and counseling resources at the site, the summary said.

“Between VyStar’s access to financial services, Goodwill’s career and workforce development activities, and access to healthy food, the goal is to turn 5th (Street) and Florida (Avenue) into a healthy, vibrant street corner and community hub for all Eastside families,” the summary says.

LIFT JAX was formed in March 2020 with the strategy of implementing mixed-income housing, cradle-to-career education, community wellness and long-term financial viability to end generational poverty in areas like the Eastside.

The historic structure was built in 1913 and operated as Debs Store for more than 90 years, according to the summary.

Duval County Property Appraiser records show the 2,560-square-foot building was constructed in 1904.

The legislation will require two rule waivers and Council will have to approve the project to be eligible for the city’s food desert program.

The 2,500-square-foot project also does not meet the food desert program’s minimum 10,000-square-foot requirement.

According to the city economic development office, the project does meet other criteria. 

The former Debs is more than 1½ miles from the nearest grocery store and is within four blocks of a U.S. census tract designated a food desert.

If approved by the budget review committee, the bill could be introduced at Council on Dec. 14.

LIFT JAX does not own the building and funding the acquisition of the property is not part of the food desert program, the summary states. 

Royce Fedd purchased the property in July 2007 for $31,000, according to Duval County Clerk of Courts records.




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