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Bid to keep Family Dollar out of Tampa's Seminole Heights fails

TAMPA — Two Seminole Heights business owners have made a failed bid to buy out a nearby building where a Family Dollar store is slated to open.

The unique proposal was the latest move in a growing neighborhood protest against the national discount chain's plans to open a store at 5100 N Florida Ave.

More than 770 people have opposed the store on a Facebook page. The movement also has attracted local TV news coverage, including during a late-night rally Thursday that included protesters waving "No Family Dollar" signs.

Business leaders in Seminole Heights, Tampa's first neighborhood, say the area has been redeveloping over the past two decades with an emphasis on historic preservation and locally owned businesses.

They started the campaign late last month after a Family Dollar developer bought a white warehouse building that is sandwiched on a strip among three locally owned restaurants, a bakery, a salon and boutiques.

Opponents claim the store does not fit because its corporation sends profits out of the community to its North Carolina headquarters, pays employees low wages and would become the sixth Family Dollar store within 3 miles of the planned location.

This week, owners of the Refinery restaurant and the Independent pub reported that their offer to buy the property from Family Dollar was rejected by Hunt Real Estate of Tampa, which represents the chain store.

They noted that they offered to buy the property for more than what Family Dollar had paid and even offered to pay for any development or permitting costs the chain has spent to date.

"We were absolutely serious," Independent owner Veronica Vellines said Friday. "We met with the developer and we said, 'Would you consider other tenants or would you consider selling the property to us or anyone else who approached you.?' "

Vellines said no numbers were discussed, but developers took about five days to consider the offer.

The rejection of the offer was also posted on the "No Family Dollar" Facebook page and signed by Michelle Baker, a co-owner of the Refinery and a Seminole Heights resident.

"We gave them a deal that would be foolish to refuse," the post said. "The war is not over. It has just begun. Call city council, call the mayor's office. Call everyone you think may listen and continue to call. More 'No Family Dollar' signs are now available at The Independent, Sherry's Yesterdaze, Micro Groove, and Velo Champ. Walk next door and tell your neighbors. Direct them to this page and to the website. The louder our voice is, the better."

Chris Salemi, a partner at Hunt Real Estate, declined to comment. Josh Braverman, a Family Dollar spokesman, said he was unaware of the offer. He said Family Dollar plans to work with residents and business owners to appease their concerns and refute perceptions about the store.

"It's unfortunate that the folks out there might have a misconception about Family Dollar and who we are and what we do," he said. "We're really doing a lot of work to update our brand, refresh our brand, and I'd love for the folks out there in Seminole Heights to let us show them what we can do."

Justin George can be reached at jgeorge@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3368.

Bid to keep Family Dollar out of Tampa's Seminole Heights fails 08/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, August 10, 2012 11:54pm]
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