GTE Credit Union eyes new branch in St. Petersburg's Midtown area

ST. PETERSBURG — Nearly three years after SunTrust bank bought a prime corner lot in Midtown with long-promised plans to build the first bank in the neighborhood, another financial institution wants to move in across the street.

Earlier this month, GTE Federal Credit Union, based in Tampa, submitted a letter expressing interest in a city-owned lot on the southeast corner of 18th Avenue S and 22nd Street. The letter does not include a monetary offer.

The city is allowing others to present offers until Wednesday. After that, it will consider the credit union's bid, said Bruce Grimes, director of real estate.

Doug Richardson, vice president of marketing for the credit union, said the new building would be a full-service, 3,000-square-foot branch. Richardson said GTE "has been looking at that location for a number of years." GTE has one other branch in St. Petersburg, at 4584 38th Ave. N, and several other outposts in the county.

A plan submitted to the city depicts a small building on the lot's northwest corner, five drive-through banking terminals and about 50 parking spaces.

The lot is part of a redevelopment district that has grown substantially in recent years. In 2004, a Sweetbay supermarket moved in to anchor Tangerine Plaza, a shopping center on the intersection's northeast corner. The successful center was recognized by the Florida Redevelopment Association.

In 2006, SunTrust paid $500,000 for a grassy lot on the southwest corner of the intersection. Since then, the land has sat vacant, despite regular updates promising an opening. Local officials wondered aloud whether the banking industry crisis was affecting the project.

Hugh Suhr, a SunTrust spokesman, did not immediately reply to a query.

Goliath Davis, the city's deputy mayor for economic development, said SunTrust was "caught in the quandary of all banks. … They haven't informed us yet that it isn't coming or it won't happen."

Historically, the 22nd Street corridor was a busy thoroughfare in Midtown, Davis noted, lined with professional offices and shops. He said the GTE deal appears to hold promise. "I think people will be excited about it," Davis said.

Luis Perez can be reached at lperez@sptimes.com or (727)892-2271.

GTE Credit Union eyes new branch in St. Petersburg's Midtown area 06/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 4:30am]

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