One of three final bidders for BayWalk withdraws

ST. PETERSBURG — A nonprofit group that offered $8 million in cash to buy the struggling BayWalk retail complex to establish a self-sustaining "village" for developmentally disabled adults has withdrawn its offer.

"We have identified another property within the city of St. Petersburg that we know will be a perfect fit for our Freedom Village concept," said Isabel Arango, Project Free's director of marketing and property acquisitions. She declined to name the other property.

Project Free was one of three entities in final consideration to buy the largely vacant retail center that opened in 2000 after taxpayers poured $20 million into it. Colliers International Tampa Bay, a commercial real estate firm, began marketing the center in March for its owner, CW Capital Asset Management. The asking price is $8 million.

While Project Free was impressed with the city and BayWalk representatives during negotiations, the nonprofit realized it would not meet the city's tax-base revenue needs, Arango said. The site it is now considering will offer space for education, employment, home ownership programs and possibly playing host to the Special Olympics.

With Project Free out, there should be at least two qualified buyers in the running to buy BayWalk. Michael Milano, managing director at Colliers, has said a buyer should be announced by June 8.

Bill Allard is a Pinellas Park broker representing a Canadian company, Pro-X Brownfield Inc., that offered $7.5 million in cash. Pro-X Brownfield was one of four final companies bidding but not in the final three, Allard said.

Joel Cantor, the outspoken developer of the luxury downtown condo tower Signature Place, had made offers ranging from $2.5 million to $5 million for BayWalk shortly before Colliers officially came on board to sell the property. He said he is not one of the final contenders to buy what he jokingly called "Deathwalk."

"I was kind of the catalyst to make them do something," he said. "Nobody is going to give you financing on that thing. You've got to pay cash."

One of three final bidders for BayWalk withdraws 05/29/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 30, 2011 10:17am]

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