A plan to raze and rebuild Seminole Mall has one big roadblock: The mall apparently isn't for sale.
But details of an open-air project anchored by big box stores such as Costco have unleashed pent-up desire for fresh retail in Seminole's de facto downtown.
"We would certainly love for something to be done with it," said Jimmy Johnson, Seminole mayor and executive director of the Seminole Chamber of Commerce. "That is our No. 1 item of discussion."
An "opportunity to invest" $5.5 million for a 75 percent stake in redevelopment of the dated indoor mall circulated on listing sites BizBuySell, LoopNet and Invesplus, and among developers.
The plan envisioned an open-air complex of big box stores — though not current anchor Kmart — an 18-screen movie theater and smaller shops. Retail space would balloon 65 percent, from 460,442 square feet to 760,000 square feet.
The Clearwater real estate company that advertised the plan says it was created as a pitch to James Gibbs of mall owner Downtown Seminole LLC, but he rejected it.
Gibbs didn't return several messages left with his Largo real estate office requesting comment.
The Florida Growth Realty proposal was never intended for Internet listing sites, said chairman Robert Lurie. His administrative assistant said it was posted accidentally.
"The Seminole Mall is not for sale or in plans for future redevelopment," Lurie said.
Seminole, which incorporated as a city 40 years ago with a vote inside Seminole Mall, certainly thinks it's ready for something new. It points not to just its retiree community and waterfront homes, but new residents who are younger and well-educated. The Census Bureau estimates the city's population has grown 75 percent since 2000, to nearly 20,000. The Seminole Chamber Web site estimates an average personal income of $44,028 and points out that the 25- to 44-year-old age bracket is the fastest-growing in the county.
Seminole Mall property manager RMC Property Group describes a "dense and established market" for retail, with 87,500 households in a 5-mile radius. Local experts say the spot is ripe for redevelopment.
"It's an enclosed mall that doesn't have a role in today's world," said Greg Sembler, CEO of shopping center developer Sembler Co. "But it is an excellent location for an open-air shopping center."
Sembler, who has seen Lurie's plan, didn't think it best captured the open-air spirit. It includes more space for smaller shops than a typical big box open-air layout, he said, which would make it tougher to fill.
"It's aggressive for that location for this time in our economic cycle," he said.
There are no shortage of visions for the site.
Mark Ely, Seminole's director of development, said the city would like to see a design with public space, such as a courtyard where people could gather for meetings or concerts. He also wants to see upscale retail and sit-down restaurants.
Thom Barnhorn, a Seminole council member running for re-election, says he envisions an outdoor mall divided into three sections: one side major stores, one side specialty stores, and one side restaurants and entertainment.
Roger Broderick, president of Broderick & Associates in Pinellas Park, has lived in Seminole for 12 years. As a resident, he sees support for upscale restaurants and retail, and thinks the city should invest money to attract it.
"There's a huge demand that's not being filled," he said.
Broderick has worked in commercial real estate since 1968. His family drives to St. Petersburg or Pinellas Park to shop and eat. Seminole represents a retail void, he said.
"It doesn't have the class and the style of retail that it demands, that it should have," he said. "It's amazing that number of people don't have a place to go to eat or a place to go to shop."
Becky Bowers can be reached at (727) 893-8859 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Anne Lindberg can be reached at (727) 893-8450 or email@example.com.