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St. Petersburg mayor asks Sweetbay to delay Midtown store's closing for six months

ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Bill Foster has asked Sweetbay Supermarket to delay the closing of its Midtown store for six months to give the city time to find another grocery store to take its place.

Foster sent one-page letters on Tuesday to Sweetbay executives in Tampa, North Carolina and Belgium. The city has invested several million dollars to buy land and improve infrastructure in the Midtown area, he wrote. Taxpayers spent another $1.3 million to build out the inside of the store when it opened in Tangerine Plaza in 2005.

"As you can probably sense, for our community, this store is more than just another retail outlet," Foster wrote. "We would appreciate it if you would reconsider your decision to close this store ..."

Sweetbay received the letters Wednesday and declined to comment on the request.

Larry Newsome of Urban Development Solutions, the shopping center's landlord, forwarded a letter Tuesday to city officials from Sweetbay.

The company said it intends to pay rent on the remaining years of its lease and fulfill other obligations on the building. Sweetbay has not made a decision on whether to sublease the space, according to Shawn Beichler, vice president of real estate based in North Carolina.

Beichler invited Newsome to participate in the process.

"If you wish to propose a new tenant for the leased premises or terms for an early termination of the lease, please feel free to send a proposal," Beichler wrote.

Newsome could not be reached for comment. Earlier this week, he said the lease ends in 13 years.

Sweetbay announced last week that it will close 33 stores, including 22 in the Tampa Bay area.

Officials would not disclose sales figures at the Midtown location, other than to say it was underperforming as were the others slated for closure.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

St. Petersburg mayor asks Sweetbay to delay Midtown store's closing for six months 01/23/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 11:20pm]

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