Thursday, February 22, 2018
Business

Seminole Mall demolition could start early next year

SEMINOLE — Bulldozers could be at the doors of Seminole Mall in the next six or seven months if all goes well for developers.

"We would certainly like to start some sort of the demolition work in the first quarter of 2015, but we just don't know," said Dale Johnson, director of development and construction for Primerica Group One. Primerica has partnered with mall owner Seminole Mall LP and Primerica Developments, a Tampa-based company whose primary focus is on the development or redevelopment of shopping centers, to remake the property. The land is at the northeast corner of Park Boulevard and 113th Street N.

It's an attainable goal, Seminole City Manager Frank Edmunds said.

"We'll need to stay focused on the details," Edmunds said.

But, he cautioned, that depends on the city and the developer reaching agreements as to design and other issues. Among those other issues is a proposal that the city, and perhaps the county and state, kick in some financial incentives. One possible perk would have the city rebate some property taxes after the mall is redeveloped.

Negotiations about incentives are a bit down the line, Edmunds said. City Council members first have to decide if they even like the concept that has been proposed — razing the mall, and creating an open mall with a 12-screen movie theater, a fitness center, retail and restaurants located along the main entrance and around the perimeter of the 39-acre parcel. If they don't, Edmunds said, things pretty much stop there. If they do, then the staff will negotiate the first agreement with the developers.

That decision could come as early as Tuesday when the council is scheduled to discuss the concept at a 5:30 p.m. public workshop. If they like the idea, they'll likely make the decision formal at a meeting immediately after the workshop.

"Then we're off," Edmunds said.

Discussion about financial concessions, if any, would come later.

In the meantime, the longtime guessing game of what the new mall might look like has ended — at least until the council decides whether to go ahead. In its place is what Johnson called "everybody's favorite game" — predicting and wishing for stores and restaurants that will be in the rejuvenated mall.

Other than saying that the two remaining anchors, Bealls and Stein Mart, want to stay, Johnson declined to comment. She did concede Primerica is negotiating with national companies. Primerica has also received calls, she said, from local restaurants who want to open there.

"Nothing has been inked yet," she said. "It's just a work in progress."

In some cases, what people want to see there is themselves.

Bob Hughes, owner of R Bar & Grille Brewpub on Treasure Island is one of those. He's interested in opening up a second, larger location for his microbrewery. Beer would be brewed on site as it is at his Treasure Island location. His reasoning for wanting to locate in the mall is simple: About 25 percent of his business already comes from Seminole. Those customers tell him there's no place to go now. Downtown St. Petersburg, he said, is already crowded with bars and it's a long distance to drive from there and back to Seminole if you've had a few.

The consumers have had Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters' ear. She said she has heard lots of suggestions over the months as she travels around the Seminole area.

Those have ranged from the big-box discount giant Costco, to grocery-type stores like the Fresh Market, Trader Joe's, or Aldi's. Requested retailers include a Pottery Barn, a Hobby Lobby or Michaels crafts, a Home Goods store and a Christmas Shop. Among the suggested restaurants are a P.F. Chang's, Capital Grille, Cheesecake Factory, a shop that makes cookies or pretzels, a Columbia restaurant and a Louis Pappas Market Cafe.

Some Freedom Square residents, she said, want a "beer garden. Somewhere they can get a beer." Freedom Square is a residence for seniors across Liberty Lane on the east side of the mall.

Waters said she'd like to see Seminole Mall in its new incarnation as Seminole City Center become "a destination for folks from north, south, east and west of Seminole to enjoy a day of shopping, dining and entertainment."

That would include an outside venue, like a gazebo, for entertainment, community meetings and other activities. It would also include adding a spur to the Beach Trolley so it would go to both the new WalMart Supercenter at Bay Pines and Seminole Mall as it traveled up and down the beaches. Waters said she has already spoken to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, which runs the trolley, about the possibility.

"I am hoping for shops, stores, theater and restaurants that will attract and be inviting to all generations including teens, young professionals, families and senior citizens," she said. "I would like for folks to be able to go out to dinner in the mall area, then to the movies, then a drink (and) socializing after."

Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.

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