Make us your home page
Instagram

Shopping center takes hard line on non-shoppers who park there

ST. PETERSBURG — Consider yourself warned if you park at the University Village shopping center: You may be towed.

Tom-Erik Bockman-Pedersen found that out the hard way recently — and he works there.

It happened at midnight about a month ago, an hour after the co-owner of the American Spirits wine and liquor store at 280 Third St. S closed up. When he came out, his Volkswagen Passat was no longer in the parking lot at Third Street S and Second Avenue.

The towing firm, A-1 Recovery Inc., "did bring it back after I complained," Bockman-Pedersen said, and did not charge him the $100 towing fee.

Bockman-Pedersen and other shopkeepers at University Village say that their customers also have noticed an aggressive trend toward towing cars. They say the downtown parking lot has become a battleground in an area where parking, especially during special events at night, can be hard to find.

Though some downtown parking is meter-free after 6 p.m. and the city provides several large parking lots downtown, people are drawn to park for free at University Village.

There are signs in the lot warning people that they will be towed, but those are often ignored, said Aaron Watkins, president of A-1 Recovery, which has a contract with the Sembler Co., the owner of the property, to tow vehicles from the lot.

"They just leave their vehicle and they think, that's fine, I can park there," Watkins said. "That's not fine."

Sembler said it is simply enforcing the rules. Though most stores at the shopping plaza, including Publix, close at 10 p.m., the 234-space parking lot is reserved for customers only to avoid liability, said David Zook, Sembler's vice president of property management.

Zook said the customer-only policy is strictly enforced. Security contractors roam the lot until midnight, noting who parks and who walks off the lot, and often warn drivers about the towing rules. When they notice illegal parking, the security officers or store employees call A-1.

Several people who work at the shopping center had their cars mistakenly towed in the past month, Watkins said. Since then, shopping center employees have been given placards to display inside their cars.

Watkins said he has about 200 clients, many of them downtown. At University Village, his company collects, and keeps, all the towing fees.

The problem is not only at night. Before the Saturday Morning Market moved to the Mahaffey Theatre parking garage for the summer, the University Village lot was packed on Saturday mornings, Watkins said.

Thomas Haverty, who owns a GNC store there, said neither he nor his customers had room to park. Haverty said he was glad that towing is aggressively enforced.

"We don't open until 10 a.m.," said Haverty, "but I'd come here at 8:30 and this place would be mobbed."

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

Shopping center takes hard line on non-shoppers who park there 07/04/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 4, 2009 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Study: Tampa Bay a top market for homebuyers on the move

    Real Estate

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, ATTOM Data Solutions says.

    The Tampa Bay area is among the top markets for homebuyers who are likely to move in the next few months, a survey found.
[Associated Press file photo]
  2. Ousted to political Siberia by Corcoran, Kathleen Peters sets sights on Pinellas Commission

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — The perks of power in Tallahassee are a coveted chairmanship, a Capitol office in a prime location and a prominent seat on the House floor. Now Rep. Kathleen Peters has lost all three, but here's the twist: Her trip to "Siberia" might actually help her reach the next step on the Tampa Bay political …

    Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, has been relegated to the back row in the State House chamber, moved to a fouth floor office and stripped of her job as chairwoman of a House subcommittee after a series of disagreements with House Speaker Richard Corcoran. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  3. UPS relocates express operations from St. Pete-Clearwater to TIA

    Airlines

    TAMPA — United Parcel Service Inc. is switching airports for its express air operations. Beginning in October, UPS will relocate from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport.

    Beginning in October, UPS will move from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport to Tampa International Airport. [Associated Press file photo]

  4. Richard Corcoran takes aim at public financing of campaigns

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, may not be running for governor — not yet anyway — but his latest idea will get the attention of those who are.

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran wants the Constitu?tion Revision Commis?sion to ask voters to repeal the state’s system of partial financing of statewide elections.
  5. Related Group breaks ground on complex at old Tampa Tribune site

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — When Miami developer Jorge Perez first eyed a 4.2-acre tract on the west bank of the Hillsborough River two years ago, people asked him if he wouldn't prefer to build on the opposite side closer to the downtown core.

    No way.

    From left, Related Group executive associate Arturo Penaa, Jorge Perez, center, founder and CEO of the Related Group, Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Steve Patterson, the President of Related Development dig their shovels  during the groundbreaking ceremony of the 400 unit Riverwalk Manor apartment complex on site of the old Tampa Tribune building on Wednesday. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]