The day after Bill Edwards took over the BayWalk Complex in September 2011, renovations began immediately.
Buildings got a fresh coat of primer and paint. The entire complex was power washed and cleaned up. For Edwards, the complex needed curbside appeal if it were ever going to turn around.
Flash forward six months, Edwards stood before the St. Petersburg City Council presenting his vision of the future for BayWalk.
Without revealing details, Edwards offered his vision for transforming the dormant retail complex through structural changes and an emphasis on shops.
As you walk into the complex now, Edwards said, it is like you are walking into a fortress. "It's uninviting," he said.
"We will be taking the box office out of there and opening it up," Edwards said. "Want to get rid of that and have an open courtyard."
Demolition of the box office and other parts of BayWalk will begin within 30 days. The entire project could be completed within 12-13 months.
Edwards said retailers being brought into the complex are nationally known and will be accessible to all people of St. Petersburg. He said it is crucial for downtown St. Pete to have retail options nearby.
"Put in ladies' clothing, men’s clothing, shoes – things that you can’t buy downtown (right now)," Edwards said. Currently, "You have to go over the bridge, go to the mall."
The future complex, which will be renamed, will have three "very iconic" restaurants to anchor the complex.
Limiting the number of restaurants in the complex will help better serve St. Pete, Edwards said.
"We don’t want to compete with Beach Drive," Edwards said. "Don’t want to be competition, (we want to) enhance that."
Members of the Council voiced overwhelming support for Edwards' presentation and the revival of BayWalk.
"Great vision, just wow," council member Jeff Danner said. "Maybe it will start spurring other development around there as well."
"We are all excited about what you’ve told us," said Council member Leslie Curran. "I think what’s even better is that you and your team have gone out nationally to major developers or retail establishments and (have taken) the message of what downtown St. Pete really is."
Edwards said the downfall of the previous BayWalk was its security, or lack thereof.
The day after taking over he said that he "tripled the security (personnel) and the security hours," Edwards said. "We put an additional 32 cameras in for safety, which has increased the amount of people going to the theater. It's just a safer place now."