ST. PETERSBURG — Is Walmart going to be the new anchor at Midtown's Tangerine Plaza?
A Walmart employee gave her business card to a volunteer who works at the St. Petersburg Police Department's resource center, which is housed in the shopping center at 22nd Street and 18th Avenue S.
"She said, 'We're taking over Sweetbay,' " recalled Helen Carter-Gibbs, a longtime police employee and current volunteer. "She said they would be opening in October and she hopes to start hiring people in July."
The shopping center built by Urban Development Solutions took a major hit when the Sweetbay grocery store closed in February. But it's far from certain that Walmart is moving in.
The retailer could not be reached for comment. Larry Newsome, head of Urban Development Solutions, the company that manages the complex, said he doesn't have a deal with anyone.
"I know they don't have the deal with Sweetbay because I would have to approve that deal," he said.
Sweetbay is locked into a lease with Urban Development but is working to sublease the space. A spokeswoman for the grocery store said she didn't have any information to release on a deal with Walmart.
Still, something seems to be in the works.
Angel Torrens, who works at Suit World in the shopping center, said a representative of Urban Development Solutions told him a retailer was close to moving into the empty grocery store.
"She said it's going to be something big," Torrens said.
Suliman Al-Rashdan at the Metro PCS store heard the same thing.
"She said for sure something is going to open and it's going to be big," he said. "There's nothing bigger than Walmart."
The space vacated by Sweetbay isn't big enough for a traditional Walmart but there would be room for the company's Neighborhood Market concept. Those stores average 40,000 square feet in size and employ up to 95 associates.
Newsome said he didn't know why a Walmart employee was passing out her business card.
"I've been around corporate America and sometimes people talk out of school," he said. "I don't want to cause any problems in case they do serve as a potential tenant. Good things come to those who wait."
Mayor Bill Foster said he didn't know anything about the deal.
"I have heard Walmart is seriously looking," said council Chairman Karl Nurse.
Cortina Wallace, who was shopping at the Dollar General across from Tangerine Plaza, has her fingers crossed.
"We need Walmart desperately," she said. "Since Sweetbay closed it's been really hard on low-income families who don't have transportation."
Staff writer Lauren Carroll contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or [email protected]