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BayWalk property's new owners want parking deal for Shops of St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG — The cost of BayWalk's massive makeover is an estimated $30 million, the same amount it took to build the shopping center in the first place, according to a memorandum Mayor Bill Foster recently sent the City Council.

The memo is tied to a proposed resolution to allow BayWalk owner Bill Edwards to offer a year of free parking in the city-owned Mid Core garage to shoppers. The council will vote on the issue Thursday.

Because Edwards says in a letter to the mayor that this agreement is crucial to signing retail tenants, it seems he will not be announcing a lineup of anchor tenants this month as planned. It remains to be seen if the delayed time line means the newly named Shops at St. Pete will not open in September 2013 as advertised.

"They are shooting for late '13 but it might spill into early '14," said Rick Mussett, the city's senior administrator of development.

In February, Edwards said he planned to announce the lineup of tenants by June. In July he said he was scheduled to present his plan for a redesigned center and anchor tenants to the council in mid August. In August he said the announcement would be in September.

Edwards, who could not be reached for comment, now needs parking details worked out before he can sign, then announce, the starting lineup. The proposed agreement between Edwards and the city calls for customers who spend $20 or more at the Shops to receive four hours of free parking in the garage. The deal would run for the first year after the reborn shopping center opens. Muvico patrons have had similar free or discounted parking over the years.

If the council agrees, as Foster has recommended, the city would give up an estimated $204,000 in parking revenue. Yet it will still come out ahead by an expected $99,000 due to increased parking revenues in the garage for patrons who don't qualify for free parking and at nearby parking meters, according to city projections. It will also reap $50,000 in annual savings if Edwards takes over maintenance of the pedestrian walkway between the Shops and the parking garage.

Yes, that little stretch of sidewalk lined with green foliage and sculpted sea creatures on poles is a costly piece of property. Twice a year it costs $17,500 for the bricks to be pressure cleaned, acid washed and sealed. Litter removal, weed control, fertilization and shrub trimming costs $1,215 a month for a total of $14,580 a year.

The city projects shoppers who don't qualify for free parking will produce garage revenue of $206,000. This is based on what the garage generated in revenue when BayWalk activity was at its peak in 2006.

An increase of $47,000 in revenue from 90 meters along the streets closest to the Shops is projected. These meters should capture an additional $1.42 a day once more people are drawn to the shopping center. The city expects those meters to earn as much as meters along Beach Drive, which average $6.60 per day now that restaurants and shops line the street.

The city does have an out from the parking agreement if the Shops hasn't reopened by June 2014 with at least 51 percent of its space leased.

Edwards also wants to oversee security of the pedestrian promenade and parking garage. The city will pay his entity that owns BayWalk an estimated $225,000, that it now pays to a parking company to provide security.

"They want to approach a feeling of seamlessness" between all facets of the shopping center, Mussett said.

Along with increased parking revenue, the city expects the rebirth of BayWalk will produce higher property tax revenues. The highest appraised value of BayWalk was in 2004 and 2005 when its owners paid $408,000 and $415,000 respectively in total taxes. Last year, the tax bill was well under half that at $118,000. Based on expectations of an increased value and the current property tax rate, the city expects to reap an additional $76,000 in city taxes alone after the Shops is open for a year.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@tampabay.com.

BayWalk property's new owners want parking deal for Shops of St. Pete 09/18/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 2:56pm]
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