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Retailers in Tampa's Hyde Park Village battle construction zone

TAMPA — Retailers in Hyde Park Village, south Tampa's historic outdoor retail campus, recognize that summer months can be slow.

But that challenge has gotten even tougher now that their six-block turf has turned into a construction zone.

Half of Swann Avenue has been torn out, some pedestrian exits from the parking garage have closed, and storefronts have been completely covered by scaffolding. And the multimillion dollar makeover of what has been a key retail draw in Tampa remains far from complete.

"I walk here every day and that cloud of dust hits me in the face," said Jessica Nichols, a manager at the Shade Store on Swann Avenue.

Some small independent stores tucked behind the Bar Taco and Buddy Brew Coffee building are fighting for business.

"We wish there was more sign-age" for the small retailers, said Downtown Dogs' Margo Stewart.

The dog boutique turned 10 in May, but the team is waiting until the scaffolding is removed before holding an anniversary event.

Shop owners and managers remain optimistic.

The worst hit in business came when the construction barriers were first put up in April, said West Elm associate manager Tim Kilzer. Within a few weeks, though, everyone got used to the barriers and business returned to normal. After all, West Elm regularly attracts customers from Sarasota and northern Tampa Bay, he said, and those shoppers are not as likely to be deterred by local road construction.

For regional customers outside of walking distance, he said, "The restaurants are a big draw right now."

Last month, the village welcomed a new Buddy Brew Coffee location and one of the hottest new restaurants in the area: On Swann.

Gabby Soriano, marketing director for Hyde Park Village, commended the leasing team for attracting new retailers and restaurants to keep consumers coming back despite construction.

"(The small retailers) are our rock, but it has been wonderful to have such momentum behind us in regards to new stores and leases," she said. "We always want to show love to the stores and restaurants that have been here."

Hyde Park Village spans eight buildings, with three parking garages and about 50 tenants. The villages' national retailers include Anthropologie, Lululemon, West Elm, Brooks Brothers and Pottery Barn.

Boston-based WS Development, which owns more than 85 other retail properties around the country, bought the village for $45 million in 2013. It's bankrolling the makeover, but has not said how much it is spending.

Last summer WS kicked off the renovations by replacing the brick facade of the "C" building (home to Anthropologie and Timpano Chop House) with a more modern look of black, industrial steel. All the other buildings will be redone to match.

Now, construction crews are in the midst of replacing a chunk of Swann Avenue, where the sidewalks and streets are being raised. Once Swann is finished, the crew will gradually move into the village, tearing out and replacing S Dakota and Snow avenues.

Soriano said there may be a break in October to help holiday sales, but the company aims to finish renovations in 2018.

WS has been planning the renovations since it bought the property. To support more foot traffic from shoppers, the company wanted to add crosswalks, slow traffic, and replace the slanted, cracked sidewalks. The company has vowed that all business and parking garages will be open for the duration of the project.

One of the more striking changes so far has been tree removal in the village.

"The trees were originally planted incorrectly," Soriano said. "The roots were growing under the sidewalks, which killed the trees and became a huge liability."

They will be replaced. But in the meantime, the patio of Timpano Chop House has lost its daytime shade, said general manager Kevin Morton.

"We know it has to be done," he said. "We're asking everyone to stick with us through construction."

To maintain sales, the restaurant has reached out to its hotel partners to ask them to drop off customers rather than having them drive where they may get lost or turned around.

The street on the patio side of the restaurant, which sits on the corner of Swann and S Dakota, is closed to traffic. A path of construction barriers weave through the street so customers can still access the entrance of Brooks Brothers.

Morton is bracing himself for the months to come, when the section of Swann directly in front of the restaurant is torn out as well.

Up the street, the Shade Store opened just three months ago, but Nichols, the manager, said business has been going well. The company has 40 locations around the country and is tailored to Hyde Park's "educated, sophisticated" demographic.

"They can take as long as they need," Nichols said. "We're happy to be here."

This story has been revised to reflect the following correction: Only some of the pedestrian exits from the Hyde Park Village parking garages have closed. A story on June 30 was unclear on that point.

Retailers in Tampa's Hyde Park Village battle construction zone 06/29/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 5, 2016 1:48pm]
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