PLANT CITY — East Hillsborough has few businesses as well-known as family-owned berry supplier Wish Farms, so the company has chosen a site for a new corporate headquarters that emphasizes its roots in Plant City.
"We want to carry on the nearly 100-year-old tradition between our company and this community," Wish Farms owner Gary Wishnatzki said Tuesday, "so I'm extremely pleased that we are staying in Plant City."
Wish Farms will build its future home along the Interstate 4 frontage road west of Park Road, a spot visible to about 115,000 cars and trucks a day.
"Visibility was a major factor in the selection of the site, as that falls in line with the strategic vision for our brand," Wishnatzki said in an announcement released through the Plant City Economic Development Corp.
Construction is expected to start in the fall, with a completion by the winter of 2019. With its decision, Wish Farms will keep more than 70 jobs in Plant City, and its workforce is expected to grow. An estimated cost for the multi-million-dollar project is still in the works.
The project will include a 20,000-square-foot, three-story office building with some distinctive and whimsical touches:
• An employee gym.
• A tree house conference space designed and built by James "B'fer" Roth from the DIY Network show The Treehouse Guys.
• An adult-sized indoor slide and a large rooftop deck.
Wish Farms' logo features a winged, wand-bearing pixie, and the company says it wants to create a home in that spirit.
"We have a lot of fun and unexpected things planned," Wishnatzki said. "This is going to be a special place."
A 138,000-square-foot warehouse will bring together operations now spread out in Hillsborough County and beyond, with facilities for processing strawberries and blueberries, pre-cooling, materials storage and cooler space.
Since a rebranding in 2010, growth has squeezed the company's available space, chief operating officer J.C. Clinard said, but the move to a new home will "drastically increase our efficiency and scalability."
The new site also will include a 26,000-square-foot solar field.
"I see our new campus as a retention and recruiting tool for top talent, but I'm really excited that our new home is going to reflect our fun, family-friendly brand," Wishnatzki said.
The Beck Group will oversee construction of the design-build office space. RCS Company of Tampa will build the warehouse.
The 36-acre site includes a 4-acre lake and a spring, which Wish Farms plans to preserve as a natural highlight on the property. The project also will include a new organic blueberry farm.
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A deed recorded with Hillsborough County shows Wish Farms last week paid $1.8 million to buy the property from Joe Kuhn, whose grandfather, Andras, acquired it in 1929 as payment for a pre-Depression loan. (Both Wishnatzki's and Kuhn's grandfathers immigrated to the United States within a year of each other.)
"I'm very happy that the property is going to stay in the agriculture sector and with a company that has a special bond with the area," Kuhn said in a statement. Proceeds from the sale are earmarked for a Kuhn family charitable trust. "This is truly the best-case scenario for all."
Contact >Richard Danielson