Cheesegrater's future played close to vest
The man who holds the future of a key downtown block came to St. Petersburg Wednesday. For lunch.
Greek-American billionaire John Catsimatidis dined at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club with Mayor Rick Kriseman, City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle and Planning and Economic Development Director Dave Goodwin.
Over the hour-long lunch, Catsimatidis gave little away about what he has in mind for the so-called "Cheesegrater" buildings, two historic structures on the 400 block of Central Avenue. Other than to demolish them,preserving the historic bank clock.
"It was an open and vague discussion," said Goodwin, who described the lunch as a "meet and greet" type of meeting. "He didn't tip his hand at all."
Instead, said Goodwin and DeLisle, Catsimatidis asked them about the city and what they would like to see go up in place of the long-shuttered buildings.
The answer? A hotel was suggested. Maybe some combination of office and public parking and retail. Streetscaping was discussed.
Catsimatidis was accompanied by a daughter and three business associates. His group and the city delegation exchanged cards and agreed to stay in touch.
Last week, Catsimatidis, a New York developer and grocery magnate, emerged as the buyer of the block, which was the site of a protracted and heated battle between perservationists and the heirs of an early mayor Abram C. Pheil. That dispute was resolved last month.