ST. PETERSBURG — Six months after they persuaded the City Council to cede a public sidewalk in front of BayWalk, its managers still have no major tenants to announce at the nearly empty shopping and entertainment complex.
BayWalk lost another tenant last week when Trade Secret, a salon products merchant, moved out. That makes five tenants to close since the Oct. 15 vote that allowed BayWalk to shoo away loitering teens and protesters from the public sidewalk at the project's entrance.
Considering that council members were told the sidewalk was needed to sign new tenants, the lack of tenants and a vacancy rate of 80 percent promises to make a presentation to the council today less than celebratory.
"I'm tired of excuses," said City Council chairwoman Leslie Curran, who voted against vacating the sidewalk. "The whole idea was, we vacate the sidewalk, they sign tenants. It's been six months and I don't see any tenants."
Curran scrapped plans for a BayWalk presentation last month after Mayor Bill Foster told her its managers needed another month to sign tenants. Curran agreed, saying it was pointless for them to come to the council without tenants.
But BayWalk's representative, Tom McGeachy, managing principal for Ciminelli Real Estate Services of Florida, said he doesn't have any new tenants to announce this time around, either.
"We're getting close," McGeachy said. "But we can't give names until they sign."
He said BayWalk has two or three prospects for each restaurant space in the complex, and that he still plans to sign major restaurants by the summer or early fall. He said he could have signed some tenants already, but he wants the right mix of restaurants to make BayWalk prosper in the long term.
"I'm not at all disappointed where we are now," McGeachy said. "My only frustration is while we know how well things are going, people won't believe it until they see the signed leases."
Foster, who is calling potential tenants on behalf of BayWalk to persuade them to sign a lease, said he is eager to see tenants move in rather than out.
"I'm frustrated," Foster said. "We're trying to do everything we can to support them."
It doesn't help that people remember BayWalk's justification for taking control of the sidewalk.
"They probably oversold that point," Foster said. "It's done and to lament that ...we just have to move forward and make sure this succeeds."
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or firstname.lastname@example.org