HYDE PARK — The new owners of Hyde Park Village are asking for patience as they try to resuscitate the high-end retail complex in the heart of historic Hyde Park.
"Vacancy is never good for anybody," vice president of development Lou Masiello told a group of homeowners and preservationists at a recent breakfast gathering. "Not the landlord, not the city, the public or the other tenants."
Masiello said the company is still in the process of "self-educating," but it's beginning to strategically identify "small stores that want a flagship location, not a small version of the mall."
The center at Swann and Rome avenues opened in 1985 as one of the first mixed-use projects in the country to revive a decades-old concept of combining stores, offices and housing in a town square setting. It thrived for years but started to lose tenants with the opening of International Plaza in Tampa and competition from other retail centers.
Tenants are carefully cultivated, and throwing out potential names would be disrespectful, Masiello said. Acknowledging the audience's years of impatience with previous owner Vornado Realty, he noted it's just had five months under their ownership.
"There's something very special about Hyde Park Village," he said. "We're not going to lurch."
Other than promises of long-term stewardship, listeners learned few specifics from the Massachusetts firm that paid $45 million for the property in September 2013. With a 20 million-square-foot portfolio, WS Development is among the largest privately owned retail developers in the country.
One of the changes shoppers can look for: renovation or demolition of the W Snow Avenue block opposite Tommy Bahama. Masiello said that part of the village contains serious structural issues and a decision to tear down or renovate will be made in weeks.
He didn't rule out a hotel tenant but noted that the company's purview doesn't normally involve lodging.
Masiello said the company retained the management staff for continuity purposes and hired Atlanta architecture firm Smith Dalia, known for its work on the Oxford Exchange, and Tampa firm api(+) as consultants.
The company also will continue to hold community events, such as this weekend's Chalk Walk Festival, at the village, and some will be adapted at their other 85 properties.
The meeting ended on an optimistic note.
"Nothing but positives," resident Suzanne Cooper said.
"Just don't get rid of the fountain," resident Mary Lou Bailey said.
Amy Scherzer can be reached at [email protected]