Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

As BayWalk gets more empty, anticipation builds for breakthrough

BayWalk’s property manager says a major announcement on new tenants could be coming in the near future.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times (2009)

BayWalk’s property manager says a major announcement on new tenants could be coming in the near future.

ST. PETERSBURG — Suzin Moon was a model tenant at BayWalk.

She paid her entire rent on time when other shopkeepers had theirs reduced or went months without paying. Her salon, LoLaJane's Beauty Lounge, was doing well in a tough economy. And she wanted to move to a bigger space within the nearly vacant shopping and entertainment complex.

So why is Moon's salon now on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N?

"For a place that's 80 percent vacant, I thought it was strange that they didn't want to keep us," said Moon, whose salon closed last month in BayWalk. "I'm not exactly sure what their plan is."

It's the latest confusing episode in how downtown's linchpin development has been managed since October. That's when the City Council, in one of the most controversial votes in recent years, ceded a public sidewalk over to BayWalk's control.

At the time, BayWalk's property managers said they needed control so they could keep the complex free of protesters, who they said scared away patrons. They claimed they had at least three tenants who were ready to sign, and the sidewalk was the only thing holding up the deals.

But with the departure of Moon's salon, that's four tenants that have left the complex since the Oct. 15 vote. Only one tenant, hermanHome, a furniture store, has opened. As winter turns to spring, pressure is mounting for BayWalk to announce some major tenants to validate the vote.

"It's very frustrating for me to explain to my constituents why we vacated a sidewalk when the three tenants they said were ready to sign still aren't there," said City Council Chairwoman Leslie Curran, who voted against vacating the sidewalk. "That was five months ago."

Last week, the lack of tenants convinced Curran to cancel an update report that BayWalk managers were scheduled to give the City Council on Thursday. Curran said it was pointless to have another report filled with only generalities and promises.

Mayor Bill Foster told her the project was on the verge of some significant announcements. So Curran pushed the report back to April 15, which just happens to be exactly six months since the vote.

"I hope they have a tenant by then," Curran said. "One solid tenant that we can build on. Either way, they're giving the report then."

Foster and Rick Mussett, the senior administrator of city development, said they believe BayWalk is close to the long-awaited breakthrough.

"We were advised by the BayWalk reps that they were close to finalizing two deals, one of which would be significant," Mussett said. "They've got a lot of leads, but they've got to close the deals."

BayWalk's leasing agent, Curtis Rorebeck, was mostly mum about what those deals were. He confirmed that Splitsville, the bowling and dining lounge that's in Tampa's Channelside complex, is still in talks about opening in BayWalk. Rorebeck's leasing firm, Equity Inc., represents the restaurant nationally, a possible conflict that Rorebeck says he has fully disclosed to all parties.

Another restaurant, Salt Rock Grill in Indian Rocks Beach, was involved in discussions, but is no longer, Rorebeck said.

He said Curran's decision to delay the update report was helpful.

"It's fair to say that if we can make a major announcement at the meeting, that would make the presentation an easier one," Rorebeck said. "People are anxious, they want us to make an announcement. I understand that. But I'm conservative when making announcements. I've seen what happens when people make an announcement and it doesn't come to fruition. That won't happen here."

He said the departure of Moon's salon was regrettable, but it couldn't be helped. He said she told him she had a better deal that BayWalk simply couldn't match.

Not so, Moon said. She said she never told Rorebeck she had a better deal, because at the time of the negotiations, she didn't. It was only until he didn't respond to her offer, and then rebuffed it, that she found a new place. She says she's paying half the rent she was at BayWalk.

"They definitely want restaurants," Moon said. "So maybe it's a matter of us not knowing what their plan is."

Foster said he's willing, for now, to give BayWalk the benefit of the doubt in turning away a tenant like Moon who was willing and able to pay rent.

"It's all about tenant mix and what (BayWalk) hopes to accomplish," Foster said. "I can only surmise that those who have departed of late don't fall within the desired tenant mix."

Rorebeck said for now, it's a matter of proving to the public that all the talk of tenants isn't just talk.

"Our goal is to land two large anchor restaurants," he said. "If we're sitting here in the summer and fall and we still don't have any restaurant openings, then that would be a bad thing."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or

As BayWalk gets more empty, anticipation builds for breakthrough 03/15/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 15, 2010 11:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Watch the trailer for 'Mini Lights,' based on St. Petersburg's frightening urban legend


    Perhaps you've heard of the "mini lights." The tales can vary a bit, but generally, they're said to be nasty little creatures controlled by a witch that once lived near Booker Creek. They come out after dark to "get you."

    A scene from the proof of concept trailer for a mini lights movie.
  2. Democratic ad: Adam Putnam is 'silent' on GOP health bill


    Democrats are trying to attach Adam Putnam to the GOP’s unpopular plans to replace Obamacare.

  3. Competition and uncertainty keep New Port Richey's Steve Miklos hooked on power boat racing


    HOLIDAY — If Steve Miklos could have it his way, every power boat race would take place in rough water. He finds the turbulent conditions calming, an attitude he's developed during a professional power boat racing career that spans hundreds of races dating back to 1991.

    Steve Miklos, the throttle man and owner of the No. 51 Sun Print Racing boat, poses at his shop in Holiday. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Did a Cubs player give Trump the middle finger during a White House visit?


    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on …

    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on social media.
The photo, taken by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly shows outfielder Albert Almora Jr. flipping a bird while standing just feet from Trump as the other players were gathered around his desk. [Gordon Wittenmyer via Twitter]
  5. Florida's death row population lower today than it was in 2005


    The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016, making him the 92nd person to be executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in 1979. The last condemned inmate to join death row , convicted double-murderer Craig Wall of Pinellas County, arrived on June 6, 2016.

    The execution chamber at Florida State Prison