ST. PETERSBURG — The fledgling Skyway Marina District is beginning to generate the type of buzz founders and residents in the city's southernmost tip have craved.
This week, Brixmor Property Group, which owns and manages the Bay Pointe Plaza shopping center, announced it will demolish and rebuild the Publix that anchors the site. This news comes on the heels of confirmation that electronics manufacturer Jabil is moving about 365 of its tech workers to the landmark Ceridian high-rise building. Additionally, the owners of Maximo Marina, which draws boaters from as far away as Canada, have taken the property off the market and are continuing millions of dollars in renovations.
On July 23, the City Council is scheduled to approve a special designation for the district that will allow greater density for development.
Tom Ando, president of the Broadwater Civic Association, which encompasses an adjacent neighborhood off Boca Ciega Bay, is pleased.
"We're making more progress than we've ever made," he said of the 1.5-mile business district along 34th Street, between 30th and 54th avenues S.
Speaking about the Publix, Brixmor spokeswoman Kristen Moore said the existing store at 5295 34th St. S is scheduled to be demolished in January 2016. Its replacement, which will be include a drive-through pharmacy lane, is expected to open in November 2016, she said.
"In addition, we will remodel the remaining (shopping) center with a new facade, as well as upgraded lighting, parking lot improvements and enhanced landscaping," Moore said, adding that the plaza will remain open during the renovation.
Jabil has signed a three-year lease for 51,000 square feet in the Ceridian building at 3201 34th St. S. The contract electronics manufacturer, which employs more than 140,000 employees worldwide, has said the Ceridian location is temporary, but the lease comes with an option to extend the stay.
As for Maximo Marina, Steven Fass, a principal with Bixby Bridge Capital, said in an email that the marina was no longer for sale and that they "plan to continue the renovations we have begun."
It's just some of the good news that the district, which touts its proximity to waterfront communities and the beaches, has had in recent months. A new restaurant — the Skyway Diner — quickly took the spot of a closed Denny's. A new kidney center has opened, as well as a dentist's office. A new assisted living facility opened at the property of one that abruptly closed.
"We have momentum, and the right people are noticing that momentum," said council member Steve Kornell, who had worked with business and neighborhood leaders for several years in an effort to redevelop the area.
"It's all starting to happen," he said.
Kornell noted that a June event to show off the district to investors and developers and attended by Mayor Rick Kriseman, Eckerd College, St. Petersburg College, Ceridian, Jabil and chamber officials, drew plenty of interest.
Still, the district has challenges. It lost Diamonds Direct to Sundial. Properties, such as one owned by Home Depot and another that was the location of a former Kmart, still wait to be developed. The district's website, skywaymarinadistrict.org, is attempting to market those and other sites.
The City Council approved the district's plans in 2014, months after a crowd of about 200 residents from surrounding neighborhoods, including Broadwater, Pinellas Point and Lakewood, gathered at St. Petersburg College's Allstate Center for a preview.
Plans include restaurants, retailers, multistory development and a hotel. They also envision improved transportation, sidewalks and landscaping. The city is offering a $1 million incentive to the first qualified, mixed-use project and an incentive of $50,000 for a 5,000-square-foot restaurant.
A $250,000 Florida Department of Transportation grant will be used to landscape the right-of-ways and medians along the district's 34th Street S stretch. Work is expected to begin in early 2016, said Gary Jones, a senior planner in the city's economic development department.
Another $250,000 DOT grant will be used to landscape Pinellas Bayway, past Eckerd College, he said. That project will begin in the fall. Additionally, the city will use Penny for Pinellas funds to pay for "gateway" signs to delineate the district, work that should happen in coming months, Jones said.
"We've really made remarkable progress for one year," Kornell said.
Contact Waveney Ann Moore at email@example.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.