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Sale of BayWalk to developer Bill Edwards goes through

ST. PETERSBURG — Mortgage executive and music producer Bill Edwards announced Wednesday that he added to his downtown portfolio by purchasing the troubled BayWalk shopping and entertainment complex.

Earlier this month, Edwards confirmed to the St. Petersburg Times his intention to purchase BayWalk. The sale went through this week.

"At this stage in my life, I did not need to buy BayWalk," Edwards said in a statement released late Wednesday. "I'm using my money to create more jobs and revitalize this important downtown asset. I plan to create several hundreds of jobs which are greatly needed in our city. If enough of us reinvested and took a chance within our communities, we would go a long way toward solving the unemployment problem."

Edwards said he plans to rename the 74,500-square-foot retail center and return the near-vacant complex to its heyday in 2000, when it opened with upscale shops and fizzy sports bars and restaurants.

His statement on Wednesday said the community will be "pleasantly surprised" with the direction he will take BayWalk. He said new brands and big names will likely become tenants of the complex.

Scott Pinsker, an Edwards spokesman, wouldn't say how much Edwards paid for the property, the sale of which was handled by Michael Milano, managing director of Colliers International Tampa Bay.

"I want to defer to Bill Edwards," Milano said when asked about the sale.

The property was put on the block for $8 million in March by a group of investors, CW Capital Asset Management, which took over the property in 2009.

Mayor Bill Foster said Edwards will do a better job managing the property than CW Capital.

"He has a great vision for that particular parcel," Foster said. "And he's local. With the previous owner, this was just a line in a portfolio. This means something to Mr. Edwards. He's passionate about St. Petersburg, and he's passionate about BayWalk."

Edwards is salvaging under-performing properties. In April, Edwards' music promotion company, Big 3 Entertainment, won the city's contract to manage and operate the Mahaffey Theater, which he promises to transform into a teeming attraction that will enliven downtown. In Treasure Island, the 66-year-old businessman bought the bankrupt Treasure Island Tennis & Yacht Club and revamped it into a posh venue for Vegas-style acts and Grammy winners.

To close on the property, it appears Edwards has tied up some loose ends. A lawsuit between the complex's former owners and its largest tenant, Muvico Entertainment, appears to have been resolved.

"We couldn't be happier that Bill Edwards has acquired the BayWalk center," said Neil Bretan, Muvico's CEO, in Edwards' statement.

Sale of BayWalk to developer Bill Edwards goes through 09/21/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, September 21, 2011 11:18pm]

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