Since the St. Petersburg City Council voted to cede control of the sidewalk in front of BayWalk, three businesses have closed. Could a fourth be right behind?
Late last week came word that GameStop, which has been BayWalk's biggest draw in recent months, will also close. Officials from the store, which sells video games, declined to comment.
With an 80 percent vacancy rate at BayWalk, you have to wonder if St. Petersburg city officials should return the sidewalk at the snakebit complex to its rightful owners — the public.
Since the City Council voted five months ago to cede the sidewalk to BayWalk, there has been an exodus of tenants. Some, like Shapiro's craft gallery, have moved to new locations, while others — Hurricane Pass, Ben and Jerry's and Ammazza Pizza Café — have simply failed during the worst economic downturn in years.
When ice cream and pizza aren't selling in the Sunshine City, you can't blame the protesters.
Ammazza's owner, Domenic D'Angelo, blames the bad economy and questionable management. And he's not alone. The buzz around town is that the management at the complex lacks the vision to revive the once-vibrant entertainment center.
Since ceding the sidewalk, only one business, hermanHOME, has moved in.
BayWalk's property manager remains optimistic. While Thomas McGeachy, managing principal for Ciminelli Real Estate Services of Florida, declined to comment on whether more tenants are leaving, he said new tenants will be announced in coming months.
BayWalk officials were originally scheduled to appear before the City Council this week to give an update on the complex, but that meeting was postponed until April 8.
The sidewalk issue is still a hot topic for some residents and elected officials.
"It was never a good idea," said council chair Leslie Curran, who expressed frustration with the woes of the complex.
"We did what we had to do at the time based on what management said they needed," said council member Jim Kennedy.
Okay, now what?
What the entertainment complex needs is a marketing strategist like the men who helped make St. Petersburg synonymous with sunshine many years ago.
One was Lew B. Brown, who bought the Evening Independent in December 1908 and missed no opportunity to tout his newspaper and the city. His best gimmick? He gave the afternoon paper away any day the sun did not shine before press time.
The other was Frank Fortune Pulver, the city's flamboyant mayor in the early 1920s. To help draw national attention to the city, he liked to dress in white from hat to shoes and stroll down New York City's Broadway with a bevy of Florida beauties in bathing suits.
Anything would be better for BayWalk than the ghost town it's becoming.
Remember when Kevin Shelton, a.k.a. "The Money Man," shot hundreds of dollar bills into a jam-packed courtyard one Saturday evening in 2003? The episode ended badly, with a dozen people injured, but at least Shelton showed some imagination.
That's what BayWalk badly needs now. Some imagination.
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Last week I invited readers to suggest names for the rhesus macaque that has taken up residence in neighborhoods throughout St. Petersburg. His most recent sighting, sans police, trappers and paparazzi, was in the Bahama Shores neighborhood on Monday.
In addition to e-mails, I received countless voice mails and a few suggestions via Facebook. At last count, there were 73 suggestions.
In some cases, naming the monkey was a family affair. One family sent in four names, while others sent in just one.
The most popular names, submitted multiple times, were Abu, Houdini, Lucky, Mischief and Einstein.
Some submissions took on a more regional flair. My favorites? Rays Rally Rascal and Charlie Chris.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor/community news. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/stpetesandi.