Rowe’s IGA Supermarkets owner Rob Rowe said Sunday he will not take over the Publix space at Gateway Town Center.
“We will not be doing this location,” Rowe said, explaining that he couldn’t agree to the landlord’s rental terms.
“The economics didn’t work out. He wanted more than I could afford,” Rowe said.
A representative with Gateway owner and landlord Gator Investments LLC has not returned requests for comment in previous attempts regarding the Publix lease and could not be reached by Monday afternoon
A spokesman for Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets Inc. said Oct. 25 the company intends to close the store it has operated for almost 20 years at 5210 Norwood Ave. in the Brentwood area.
Publix said its lease is expiring and there are factors that go into determining whether Publix will pursue a lease extension or renewal. The company did not elaborate further.
Rowe said Oct. 31 that he was interested in replacing the Publix after it closes Dec. 28. and had a letter of intent with Gateway’s landlord to lease the 28,120 square feet of space, pending the termination of Publix’s lease.
Rowe said his group had an interest in doing a deal, "but we have a whole process to go through."
He said if Publix was closing in December and the landlord was successful with the lease deal, Rowe’s would open soon after Publix vacates.
Jacksonville-based Southeastern Grocers Inc., which operates the Winn-Dixie and Harveys Supermarkets banners, said Oct. 31 it also was interested but didn’t say it had a letter of intent.
A Southeastern Grocers spokesman repeated Sunday what he said Oct. 31.
“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,” said Joe Caldwell, senior manager of corporate communications, in an email.
District 7 City Council member Reggie Gaffney told Jacksonville Daily Record news partner News4Jax on Monday that he is talking to Gateway management to make sure residents have access to a grocery store. He said Winn-Dixie is one grocery chain interested in taking Publix's place.
"We are on third base with Winn-Dixie, if you know anything about baseball," Gaffney told News4Jax. "It's just about getting the numbers together and both agreeing on those numbers so we can move forward."
Even if it is not Winn-Dixie, Gaffney said he is confident there will be a store in place of Publix next year.
After Publix announced it would close, Gaffney said that he received a commitment from Gateway officials to freeze Publix’s monthly rental rate.
According to Gaffney, rent for Publix at Gateway has remained stable at approximately $19,000 per month, including taxes and fees, for more than a decade. He said Gateway's owners were willing to renegotiate Publix’s lease terms to persuade it to remain.
Gaffney said the lease includes a renewal option to keep the rent unchanged, and Gator Investments would extend the rate for 10 years.
Rowe indicated he was offered different terms.
Gaffney said previously the city could offer the next tenant for the Publix space $500,000 to $700,000 from the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund targeted to help bring full-service grocery stores to the area.
In 2018, Council earmarked $3 million in the fund to address food desert-related issues.
A food desert is defined as an area without a grocery store within a mile. Other grocers are near the threshold at 0.9 miles and 1.2 miles away, and the closest Publix stores are several miles from Gateway Town Center.