The Gullah Geechee community of LaVilla was founded in 1866, when Francis F. L’Engle subdivided a portion of J. McRobert Baker’s former LaVilla plantation and provided 99-year leases to 41 freedmen. the neighborhood’s Myrtle Avenue emerged as an early 20th century industrial destination, following the opening of rail terminals and depots for the Jacksonville Terminal Company, Railway Express Agency (REA) and the Atlantic & East Coast Terminal Company (A&ECT;).

Now U-Haul Moving & Storage plans to transform a historic warehouse property into the neighborhood’s latest adaptive reuse project. U-Haul has announced its August 25th acquisition of 141 Myrtle Avenue North and plans to convert the property into a state-of-the-art retail and self-storage facility.

“This building dates back to 1929 and is full of history,” said Amanda Bauer, U-Haul Company of Jacksonville president. “Our goal is to maintain as much of the original character as we can during the renovation process. We are honored to clean up the property and preserve this piece of Jacksonville history. We know the community will love the finished product.”

Once served by an A&ECT;, railroad siding in the middle of Houston Street and located across the street from the REA terminal, the 1.12-acre property was once used by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and the Western Union Telegraph Company. In recent years, the building has been occupied by McGill’s Custom Counter Tops and Dukeman Custom Woodworking. McGill recently relocated to a nearby warehouse that was originally stables for the Southern Express Company.

Unique to Jacksonville, a city prone to demolishing structures like this, acquisition of the property was driven by U-Haul Corporate Sustainability initiatives: U-Haul supports infill developments to help local communities lower their carbon footprint. The adaptive reuse of existing buildings reduces the amount of energy and resources required for new-building materials and helps cities reduce their unwanted inventory of unused buildings. Established in 1945, U-Haul offers nearly 774,000 rentable storage units and 66.7 million square feet of self-storage space at owned and managed facilities throughout North America.

“We’re working closely with the tenants in the building, and they plan to remain during the renovation process,” Bauer added. “We’re excited to invest in the LaVilla neighborhood and hope other businesses follow suit.”

U-Haul Moving & Storage plans to renovate the 34,289 square foot complex to offer indoor climate-controlled storage, truck and trailer sharing, towing equipment, moving supplies, U-Box® portable storage containers and more. When the first phase of renovations are completed, there will be 231 self-storage units available for rent with high-tech security features at affordable price points. Bauer expects to hire a staff of 10 or more Team Members when the store is fully operational. U-Haul will look to hire locally to promote job growth in Jacksonville.

With the number of urban core apartment dwellers rapidly increasing, the self-storage industry has stumbled upon a growth opportunity in cities across the country. The project will be the third self storage building built along the Myrtle Avenue corridor in recent years. In 20xx, Winter Park-based Nuvo Company opened a five-story, 91,000 square foot, climate-controlled space at Myrtle Avenue and Elm Street. This was followed with the 2019 opening of a 68,700 square foot climate-controlled CubeSmart storage facility on nearby Edison Avenue by Structure Development LLC.

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at