Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Nielsen Media site untouched as developer Grady Pridgen faces money woes

The former Nielsen Media Research property still hasn’t changed from when the company pulled out in 2005. New owner Grady Pridgen has never come up with a concrete plan for the site.


The former Nielsen Media Research property still hasn’t changed from when the company pulled out in 2005. New owner Grady Pridgen has never come up with a concrete plan for the site.

DUNEDIN — As Dunedin's biggest property silently slips through a fourth year of vacancy, its developer faces his own problems: ballooning back taxes, a handful of lawsuits and claims of more than $40 million in unpaid loans.

City leaders acknowledge they're powerless to redevelop the 24-acre complex, left deserted since Nielsen Media Research sold it to Grady Pridgen in 2005. Yet Pridgen's financial plummet has inspired a glint of optimism in an otherwise desolate project: now, officials say, the land may get a second chance .

"Maybe a new owner comes into the picture and that changes everything. Maybe this speeds the day with a new owner. It might be a silver lining," said City Manager Rob DiSpirito. "The frustrating thing is, we literally don't have that control. We have to work with the current owner, whoever that may be."

Pridgen's reputation as an influential St. Petersburg developer evoked optimism from the City Commission in 2005 when he bought the land at 375 Patricia Ave. Nielsen sold the property and transferred 1,600 employees to its Oldsmar office, emptying three buildings and 211,000 square feet of office space.

"He was a well-known developer. He's done a lot of things in the county," said Vice Mayor Julie Scales. "I think people felt he might get something going."

Officials expected renovation and redevelopment, including new jobs, property tax payments and a revitalization of nearby businesses. Yet after four years of diagram and discussion, only the grass there has grown.

"For the better part of this last year we just haven't heard from him," DiSpirito said of Pridgen, who did not respond to messages this week. "The ball has been in his court. He openly needed to bring a proposal to the city for us to consider about some of those issues the city had identified and he ultimately never did. I can't speak for what was going on at his end, but it got awfully quiet."

The city soured on Pridgen's early ideas for the property. DiSpirito envisioned the office park as a "conglomeration of companies" that would bring intellectual work in health care, technology or research. Pridgen proposed condominiums.

"To this date, Grady Pridgen has not shared the vision of a commercial property," said Mayor Dave Eggers. "He's wanted us to really rezone that for a residential look. I think that market took care of itself."

"We're mostly residential as a community already," DiSpirito said. "What we don't have is an opportunity for good-paying jobs."

The planning phase stretched on for years, bringing with it new issues. Property records show Pridgen owes about $150,000 in back taxes on the land, and Economic Development Director Bob Ironsmith said late fees have added thousands more to the bill. No one mowed the complex's overgrown grass. Talks stalled.

"(Pridgen) never came with something that was solid and substantial and ready for development," Ironsmith said. "It was just conceptual discussion."

City officials see three options for the property: Pridgen submits a plan and begins development, he sells the land and moves on or the property is foreclosed. All options bring their own doubts, including questions of whether Pridgen could contribute the capital or whether another buyer could be found.

"This ownership issue has to sort itself out," DiSpirito said. "If he's going to be the owner he needs to bring forth a viable plan, which he has yet to do."

In the short term, DiSpirito said, the property's fate lies with Pridgen. City officials don't think that will last.

"I don't have a lot of optimism," Eggers said, "that he's going to be a part of the future of that property."

Drew Harwell can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4170.

Nielsen Media site untouched as developer Grady Pridgen faces money woes 06/17/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 8:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.