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Gap is out of BayWalk's lineup

Ruby Tuesday also chooses not to open in the downtown plaza project. But several other restaurants will.

Gap and GapKids no longer plan to open stores in the downtown St. Petersburg BayWalk entertainment and shopping plaza anchored by a 20-screen Muvico cinema.

"Gap at this time is not in," Sembler Co. president and chief executive officer Craig Sher said Thursday.

The powerhouse clothing retailer headlined a partial list of tenants Sembler announced in June, when the developer said it was "finalizing negotiations" with Gap but had not signed a lease.

National chain restaurant Ruby Tuesday also has dropped out since then, as has Tacone Wraps, a restaurant specializing in sandwiches wrapped in tortillas. Sher declined to explain except to call the lineup changes part of the normal evolution of a project.

Officials of San Francisco-based Gap said they had no immediate comment on the St. Petersburg development.

BayWalk is on schedule for completion in early November, and the list of restaurants has grown, Sher said.

In addition to the previously announced Johnny Rockets 1950s-theme hamburger restaurant, the Wet Willies daiquiri bar and Toojay's Gourmet Deli, these restaurants have also signed leases, Sher said Thursday:

Grand Grill, by restaurateur John Schall. Schall recently opened a similar "improvisational grill," Fire + Ice, near Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Diners select the makings of their meal and take them to a giant grill in the center of the restaurant, where one of several chefs will create a dish as the diner watches.

Dan Marino's Town Tavern, a martini bar and bistro, named after the retired Dolphins quarterback.

Adobo Grill, a Mexican restaurant by the same people who own the Red Mesa restaurant on Fourth Street N.

A "white tablecloth" Italian restaurant to be opened by a local group of investors Sher declined to identify. "I can't tell you yet," he said. "The ownership group is still being formed, but the lease is done."

Retailers Brainfood Books, Eyetems International and Key West Confections & Cones remain committed to the project, as Sembler announced in June. Some 60 to 70 percent of the space in the main BayWalk complex has now been leased and announced, Sher estimated.

Sembler also has letters of intent from at least four other stores Sher said, declining to name them. The list includes crafts and pottery, women's clothing, teenage boutique and shoe stores, he said.

"It's been a long, slow convincing," Sher said of retail companies. "Retailers are finally waking up to downtown St. Pete. I think the restaurants saw it right away.

"We think we have a great lineup," he added.

The basic superstructure is complete. The development centers on a U-shaped outdoor plaza, which has entrances from First and Second streets N. The businesses face inward.

A second-floor stage overlooks the plaza and the grand staircase that leads to the daiquiri bar space.

Most of the restaurants are on the second floor, with outdoor eating areas that look onto the plaza.

"Think about this when it's all done," Sher mused, standing on the stage and looking around as a pleasant breeze blew. "A concert here, jazz, a comedian."

The main pedestrian entrance, which will have valet parking, will be from Second Avenue N, where a landscaped pedestrian walkway will connect the shopping complex to the 1,380-space parking garage half a block to the south.

Sembler is also responsible for leasing the retail spaces being built on the first floor of the parking garage. Sembler has announced no tenants for that space.

Sher said "more service-oriented businesses" will serve surrounding office buildings and homes. He said the company plans to announce tenants for those spaces within a couple of months.

Sembler is spending about $30-million on the project, with the city government kicking in some $12-million for the garage and about $1.5-million for street and intersection improvements like underground utilities, mast-arm traffic signals and decorative pavers.

Muvico has completed the basic structure of the cinema building, which backs up to Third Avenue N. The ticket booth and entrance will be in BayWalk plaza.

"The town, I think, is really ready for this," Sher said.

BayWalk tenant list

Here is the current list of signed tenants for the BayWalk shopping plaza in downtown St. Petersburg:

Brainfood Books

Muvico Theaters

Key West Confections and Cones

Eyetems International

Grand Grill

Toojays restaurant

Johnny Rockets restaurant

Wet Willies

Dan Marino's Town Tavern

Adobo Grill

_ Staff writer Helen Huntley contributed to this report.

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