Finance Committee approves grant for Project Willow

The $3.5 million tax incentive for a new cold-storage facility now will be considered by the full City Council.

Project Willow is the possible expansion of a cold storage facility in Northwest Jacksonville.
Project Willow is the possible expansion of a cold storage facility in Northwest Jacksonville.
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The City Council Finance Committee approved an ordinance Nov. 7 authorizing a Recapture Enhanced Value Grant up to $3.5 million for code-named Project Willow.

The city Office of Economic Development says the applicant is a locally established regional food retailer that wishes to expand its distribution support operations to accommodate continued growth to serve customers in the Southeastern U.S.

The possible expansion includes construction of a 300,000-square-foot cold-storage facility in Northwest Jacksonville with a capital investment of about $150 million for construction and equipment, the document states.

The company will maintain its current level of jobs and add 150 jobs with a $7.5 million annual payroll combined with “offering substantial benefits” by Dec. 31, 2026, according to the application documents.

The legislative fact sheet says the facility would support the company’s continued growth to serve customers throughout the Southeastern U.S.

A report presented to the committee by the Council Auditor’s Office indicates the project has a calculated return on investment of $4.17 for each $1 invested by the city.

While the company proposing Project Willow is not identified, the proposal is similar to a new warehouse being considered by Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. at its West Jacksonville distribution center.

JEA issued a service availability letter Aug. 28 for Publix to build a 400,000-square-foot warehouse for frozen foods storage on 37.15 acres along General Avenue.

Publix owns 128.68 acres between Interstate 10 and West Beaver Street. General Avenue runs by the complex.

Publix began developing the complex in 1971. Buildings were added since then and now total about 950,204 square feet.

The addition will increase that to 1.35 million square feet.

Existing structures include warehousing, distribution, refrigerated warehouses, offices and other functions.

The ordinance now will be considered for approval by City Council at its meeting Nov. 14.