New Publix a boost for Skyway Marina District's prospects

The overhaul will improve aesthetics and draw business to the Skyway area, a city official says.
City Council member Steve Kornell says the work is overdue.
City Council member Steve Kornell says the work is overdue.
Published March 11 2016
Updated March 11 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — One recent weekday morning, the Pinellas Point Publix was overrun with shoppers, its parking lot crammed with cars and checkout lines teeming with customers.

Such are the crowded circumstances for the 54th Avenue S store, which is picking up customers from another neighborhood Publix. That store, anchoring Bay Pointe Plaza shopping center off 34th Street S, is being demolished and rebuilt into the newest Publix prototype. It will open in December.

The new supermarket is a boost to the fledgling Skyway Marina District, which has formal boundaries on 34th Street between 30th and 54th avenues S. Surrounding neighborhoods include Maximo Moorings, Pinellas Point, Broadwater and Lakewood.

Signs of further redevelopment should be evident in coming months. The city is spending about $1 million to give the district an overhaul. This summer, the promised multimillion-dollar makeover of Maximo Marina will begin. Burger King is being rebuilt, along with Wendy's. Bay Pointe Plaza will get a new look to complement its rebuilt Publix. Also, Skyway Marina District signs, new lighting, landscaping and banners will distinguish the area. And there's hope that global electronics manufacturer and design company Jabil, which began leasing space at Ceridian last year, will make a long-term commitment.

For some, though, progress has been frustratingly slow.

"I'm happy about what's happening," said City Council member Steve Kornell, who has worked with business and neighborhood leaders on ideas to redevelop the area at the city's southernmost tip.

"If you ask me when I want it done, the answer is always going to be yesterday. Although, downtown didn't happen overnight. That was a decades-old process."

In 2014, the City Council approved the district's redevelopment plans, which include more restaurants and retailers, multistory development, a hotel, improved transportation, sidewalks and landscaping.

Kristen Moore, spokeswoman for Brixmor Property Group, owner of Bay Pointe Plaza, recently gave details about plans for the shopping center.

"We are upgrading all building facades, parking lot and landscaping. We will be converting the parking lot light fixtures to energy efficient LEDs, making stormwater improvements and installing smart irrigation," she said.

"The older South Florida architecture will change to a more contemporary style, using stucco, natural stone and accent finishes."

Moore said the shopping center will remain open during construction, with work expected to be complete in October.

Maximo Marina also will remain open during its revamping.

"We are going to get rid of all of the structures on the water, dredge and rebuild all the docks with the covers and put them back on," said general manager Lee Hicks of Island Global Yachting, the firm hired by owner Bixby Bridge Capital of Illinois to run the marina.

To protect seagrass, Florida no longer allows covered docks to be built, Hicks said, but Maximo Marina is "grandfathered in" for such work.

"We will end up with the largest covered slip marina on the west coast of Florida to handle vessels up to 100 feet in length," he said.

The facility has 200 wet slips, 150 of which are covered, and "dry stacks" for about 220 boats. The project will be done in phases starting this summer and take about 18 months, Hicks said.

Wendy's, which opened in March 1981, will be razed. The company-owned restaurant will be rebuilt to offer "a more comfy feel," offering a fireplace, television and Wi-Fi, said Craig Madanick, Wendy's field marketing manager.

Adding new signs, lighting and landscaping is more than cosmetic, Kornell said.

"Making that corridor look better will go a long way toward showing the business community that we're serious about developing that area," he said.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes