Amid a backdrop of its characteristically simple and brightly colored furniture, Ikea announced on Wednesday morning that it would bring its first Jacksonville store to Gate Parkway and Interstate 295.
The 294,000-square-foot store will be the fifth in Florida for the Swedish furniture retailer. It also represents a major reversal for the company, which said in 2012 that Jacksonville’s population couldn’t support a store.
Director of Public Affairs Joseph Roth said the city’s economic growth over the last few years changed its mind.
“The general growth of Jacksonville was a deciding factor,” Roth said.
The St. Johns Town Center area, where Ikea will set up shop in fall 2017, is also a major part of why the company reversed its course. The 25-acre plot of land on Gate Parkway has all the factors that Ikea looks for in its locations, particularly easy access to highways.
The new store will be within striking distance of I-95 and the St. Johns Town Center, which last year welcomed another store that Jacksonville residents had been clamoring for: Nordstrom.
After years of starts and stops, as well as fervent speculation, Nordstrom opened its doors almost exactly a year ago in the St. Johns Town Center. Although the success of the Town Center was a fundamental part of the appeal, the growing retail power of Jacksonville also played a part.
“It speaks to the direction that Jacksonville is going,” Mayor Lenny Curry said at the news conference. “It shows that Jacksonville is a city on the move.”
Ikea is bringing major economic development in the area, adding between 250 to 300 permanent jobs in areas like retail, human resources and food service, with an estimated impact of $80 million. In addition, an estimated 500 people will be employed on the construction site.
The arrival of Ikea, which has 360 stores in 47 countries, also shows that Jacksonville is competing on an international scale, according to city officials present at the news conference.
“We are an international city. This is just the beginning,” Jax Chamber PresidentDaniel Davis said.
Those familiar with retail in the area said that Ikea won’t be the last major presence to move into the area. More big-name brands are likely on the horizon, according to Whitney Kantor, the director of retail leasing for Franklin Street.
“Having an international retailer of that caliber means other retailers will follow,” Kantor said. Ikea is “iconic across the world. It really is a confirmation that Jacksonville is quickly becoming a sought-after city.”
Ikea’s decision to move into Jacksonville also reflects a shift in expansion strategy for the company. The retailer is still looking to put stores in areas with a population of 2 million or more, but it’s looking at the potential for certain areas differently. The Jacksonville Ikea won’t just cater to residents living within Duval County limits, but residents of St. Augustine, Gainesville and even South Georgia.
The company first started seriously considering Jacksonville in 2014, and put the project into motion earlier this year. The factor that clinched the deal, however, was the property, which was brokered by CBRE.
“The trick is actually finding the site — and not just a site, the perfect site,” said Ikea’s real estate manager, Liz Gabor.
Gabor agrees that Ikea could trigger more retailers to come to the area.
“Where we go, typically other businesses will follow,” she said.
The excitement surrounding the Ikea announcement went beyond the usual economic development announcement fanfare. City Council President Greg Anderson talked about how his son took Ikea furniture with him to college. Curry said his wife was angry with him for not telling her the news sooner. Most people in the room could recall a personal connection with the brand.
What was most apparent, however, was the feeling that the announcement was an economic endorsement of the city.
“All of these companies have huge investments in research. Having Ikea come here is a sign of the strength of the area,” Danny Becton, City Council representative for the Southside area, said.
When asked if he could think of any other retailers he would like to see come to the area, Becton hesitated.
“The list is getting smaller,” he said.