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Bay Plaza pulls out // WHAT ABOUT COBB?

So what about movies?

The city no longer has two developers vying to build a multiplex downtown. Bay Plaza, which arguably has the better site, is giving up.

Meanwhile, the other developer, SWF Investments, still is struggling to come up with an acceptable parking plan for its proposed theater a few blocks south of the downtown core.

Suddenly, new possibilities have surfaced.

Bay Plaza's vacant retail space at South Core, for instance, would be perfect for a multi-screen complex, Mayor David Fischer suggested Thursday. In fact, SWF had expressed interest in that space months ago for its proposed 20-screen Cobb Theatres.

Is it too late to renegotiate?

Frank Menke, the developer trying to put together the SWF deal, said he was stunned by the Bay Plaza news Thursday. But he dismissed the likelihood of moving the Cobb Theatres to Bay Plaza property.

"We have no intentions of changing our plans," Menke said. "We still think we're at the best location."

Menke said that in August he spoke to Bay Plaza about building the theater at Bay Plaza's Mid-Core site. But he said Bay Plaza wanted too much money.

How eager SWF or anyone else is to buy the Bay Plaza property will depend on Bay Plaza's asking price.

Bay Plaza had a contract with AMC Theaters to operate a 24-screen theater at Mid-Core. AMC has said it was only interested in running a theater downtown if it was part of a larger development.

The SWF location is at First Street and Fourth Avenue S, across from the St. Petersburg Bayfront Hilton and the Bayfront Center. The developers have been scrambling to find adequate parking in the area. They are scheduled to present their development plans to City Council members Oct. 19.

Fischer doubted that SWF was too far along with its plans to consider a new site. But even if Cobb and SWF did not want to move to another location, he noted, they no longer face a race with Bay Plaza.

"This takes the pressure off them," he said.

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