ST. PETERSBURG – Residents and businesses around the 400 block of Central Avenue can expect a noisy, dusty few months as workers demolish a former hotel, bank and parking garage.
Demolition is expected to start Thursday as the 2-acre site is cleared to make way for a mixed-use project that could include a hotel and a tower of 40 or more floors. New York-based Red Apple Group, headed by a Greek-American billionaire, is under contract to buy the block, arguably the most valuable parcel still left for development downtown.
Workers have spent the past few weeks removing asbestos from the decades-old buildings and fencing in the block. Tampa-based Kimmins Contracting, which is doing the demolition, sent out a notice recommending windows in nearby offices, homes and cars be kept closed even though "dust control methods'' will be used. People in the area can also expect "loud noise and some vibration'' during the demolition, the notice said.
The work, expected to be finished by Thanksgiving, will force temporary sidewalk and lane closures on Fourth Street, Central Avenue, First Avenue S and Fifth Street in the immediate vicinity.
Red Apple has not said what it is paying for the block. Its redevelopment had been stymied for years in a dispute between the two owners — a real estate investment trust and the descendants of the early St. Petersburg mayor who built the Pheil Hotel, known as the "cheese grater'' for the aluminum grillwork added to its exterior in the 1960s.
As downtown property soared in price, the warring owners reached a deal late last year that allowed a sale to proceed.