Project at Gretna Exchange Will Be Important Feature of Logistics Zone
The makings of a transportation hub
Gretna City Manager Antonio Jefferson looks out upon 600 acres at the Highway 12/Interstate 10 exchange in Gadsden County and sees 300 jobs.
The Gadsden County Development Council holds a purchase option on the acreage, and the City of Gretna has been awarded almost $300,000 in state funds with which to complete a feasibility study at the site.
That work, Jefferson said, will include an environmental assessment, the delineation of developable property and design work related to roadways, sewer and water.
It will be reviewed by the state Department of Economic Opportunity and agencies including the Department of Environmental Protection and the Northwest Florida Water Management District.
Jefferson envisions that the site will become an intermodal distribution center and a key component within the Gulf to Gadsden Freight Logistics Zone (FLZ), which extends from the Port of Port St. Joe to the I-10 corridor.
The FLZ project was made possible by a community planning technical assistance grant from the Department of Economic Opportunity to Gulf County, and it encompasses all or parts of Gulf, Franklin, Liberty and Gadsden counties.
An FLZ designation increases the chances for priority funding for projects within its boundaries, and it is intended to stimulate greater use of the Port of Port St. Joe and to revitalize the Apalachicola Northern Railway line that connects Port St. Joe and Chattahoochee.
The FLZ will link port, airport, rail and highway systems to help increase the flow of freight and increase economic development in the region.
Strategically, Jefferson said, the Highway 12 site “made a lot of sense. We have a willing seller, the interstate and a railroad are at close proximity to the site and water and sewer are already present at the northwest and northeast corners of the exchange.”
Other exchanges in Gadsden County, Jefferson pointed out, were less suitable as a candidate for an intermodal distribution center, either given hurdles to development or because, in the case of the Midway exchange, it is already nearing build-out.
Jefferson said the extension of utilities to the Highway 12 site will make some 2,000 adjoining acres, most of them within the city of Gretna, developable.
He said he hopes the feasibility study will be completed no later than the first part of the fourth quarter of this year and that construction of a lift station to serve the south side of the exchange will begin prior to year’s end.
Additional rounds of state and federal funding will be more easily secured once the feasibility hurdle is cleared.
And, Jefferson said, the City of Gretna will work with Gadsden County and the neighboring Town of Greensboro to assemble a funding package for the project’s build-out.
“We get a lot of inquiries about the site, but the challenging question from interested parties always has been, ‘How long will it take you to deliver the infrastructure?’ Jefferson said.
“We’re getting a lot closer to being able to give people a good answer the that question. We’re excited.
“I believe we will have tenants in place by 2021 or 2022 and, conservatively, the project will bring about 300 permanent jobs.”