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Ann Taylor to close its store at St. Petersburg's BayWalk

ST. PETERSBURG — More bad news for BayWalk: Ann Taylor is closing.

The upscale women's clothier is planning to shutter its downtown St. Petersburg location in January, BayWalk owner Fred Bullard Jr. said.

"This situation could not have happened at a worse time," said Bullard, who already is in the middle of foreclosure proceedings on the troubled property.

A spokeswoman for Ann Taylor in New York confirmed the closing of the chain's only Pinellas County location late Monday, but could not say whether any of the four Ann Taylor stores in Tampa would be among 33 the company will close nationwide.

When it opened in November 2000, Ann Taylor was considered the anchor of BayWalk's retail offerings.

Now it's another footnote in the retail and entertainment center's precipitous decline. Besides the pending foreclosure, several storefronts remain vacant, and Muvico has discussed closing its 20-screen movie theater.

Bullard said that while no other tenants are preparing to leave, it's possible that more will.

BayWalk could be sold at public auction as soon as spring if a judge approves the foreclosure.

"A lot of the people are struggling," Bullard said of BayWalk's current tenants.

"The fact of the matter is there are some people who are questioning whether or not they're going to be there," he said.

Ann Taylor's demise has as much to do with the national retail climate as BayWalk's sagging brand.

A publicly traded company, Ann Taylor said it intends to close 33 stores out of its 344-store portfolio by year's end.

The company also owns Ann Taylor LOFT, which has a location at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg.

Ann Taylor's stock dropped 12 percent, or 73 cents, Monday to close at $5.25. The stock was selling at more than $27 a share one year ago.

Times staff writer Mark Albright contributed to this report. Aaron Sharockman can be reached at asharockman@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2273.

Ann Taylor to close its store at St. Petersburg's BayWalk 12/15/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 18, 2008 12:08pm]
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