Friday, December 15, 2017
Business

Downtown St. Petersburg building back on the market

ST. PETERSBURG—The vacant Universal Health Care building in the heart of downtown will remain empty longer than expected. Kevin Hirsch, the surgeon and developer who bid $10.5 million to buy the offices of the bankrupt insurance company, has backed out.

He initially envisioned filling the two-story office building, which has six floors of parking above, with retail. Whole Foods considered the site for about three weeks before deciding against it, Hirsch said. Then he started planning to add six more stories to the building and give it a dramatic new look.

But because the city owns four of the six floors of parking, Hirsch ultimately didn't have sole control of his project. Dealing with the city was frustrating and painstakingly slow, he said.

If he converted the parking to additional office floors, the city wanted Hirsch to build a parking garage nearby but there was no available location. The city also wanted a tenant to be a Fortune 500 company with a certain number of employees if it was to give up the parking, Hirsch said. He was willing to meet such stipulations but felt the process was frustrating and taking too long.

"We hadn't gotten far enough along in understanding what he was going to bring to the table," said Dave Goodwin, the city's director of economic development.

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