City council unanimously passed a parking resolution Thursday with BayWalk in hopes to lure anchor tenants for the center’s redevelopment. Once the project is complete it will be called the Shops at St. Petersburg.
In the agreement, 180 rooftop spots at the existing lot would be reserved for BayWalk employees. Also included in the agreement would be validation parking for BayWalk patrons, similar to the agreement the city currently has with Muvico.
BayWalk was purchased by Bill Edwards’ company, Loan Ranger Acquisitions.
In a Sept. 3 letter to Mayor Bill Foster, Edwards said parking for employees and customers is "paramount."
"In order for the Edwards Group (aka Loan Ranger Acquisitions LLC) to invest tens of millions of dollars to position the (Shops at St. Pete) as the key driver for our downtown a commitment to customer and employee parking is paramount and absolutely required to attain the high quality tenants who are so greatly needed in our downtown region.
A key decision maker for national brands and restaurateurs is easy and accessible free parking, especially for the center's first year. Thereafter, a low cost customer validation program for the center will be essential for its long-term success. The (Shops at St. Pete's) No. 1 competitor, International Mall, has preferred surface parking and it is free to their customers."
Joel Jimenez, who presented Thursday’s updated plan to BayWalk, said the agreement was crucial and what could the final step to lure two/three anchor restaurants and three anchor retail tenants.
“He has something we need and we have something he needs,” said Foster of BayWalk's need for parking. “We need to have this transformed (and) have a 10-12 million increased tax base.”
According to city documents, the city's projected savings in year one of the new BayWalk parking agreement would be $99,000. In year two, $379,000.
The anchor restaurants, which Jimenez said would be associated with internationally known chefs, will be announced within 30-60 days. The major retail shops will be announced 30-60 days following the restaurants announcement.
The Shops at St. Pete will be “having a minimum of two, most likely three great destination restaurants, with the ownership being highly regarded nationwide and internationally,” Jimenez said.
“The new center will promote the entire downtown waterfront district,” he added.
Without the city’s parking commitment, BayWalk said it would be difficult to draw known tenants because most shopping centers, like International Mall, do not charge patrons to park.
Thursday also provided the city council with a glimpse of new renderings for the project. Most of the existing architecture would be removed in favor of a more modern, clean and open look.
The top level would be a dinning terrace that would include lounge seating and keep with the openness of the courtyard on the first level.
Council member Wengay Newton, who did vote yes on the resolution, said he was voting yes because he knows the agreement would help get the project of the ground. However, he said he did not like the length of the 20-year agreement.
The 20 years of the parking agreement for the the existing parking garage, located on the north side of 1st Avenue N between 1st and 2nd Street North, mirrors the 20-year leases BayWalk is seeking with its tenants.
Council chair Leslie Curran said when BayWalk was recently painted, people got excited. When the center fortress structure was demolished, people became more excited.
“Now to see this design,” Curran said Thursday. “I love it. I think it’s great. I think it’s going to be a good addition to downtown.”
Shops at St. Pete Schedule
- Sept. 21, notice to proceed
- January/February 2013, permitting submittal/issuance
- February/March 2013, construction begins
- Early 2014, grand opening