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St. Petersburg’s ‘Tiny Town’ is up for sale

Artist and creator Dan Painter is moving on to the next adventure.
Artist Dan Painter talks about his Tiny Town outdoor art studio in St. Petersburg on January 11, 2019.
Artist Dan Painter talks about his Tiny Town outdoor art studio in St. Petersburg on January 11, 2019. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jun. 4
Updated Jun. 4

Dan Painter once told the Tampa Bay Times that his greatest joy came from working on his tiny town built on less than an acre in St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District.

It only makes sense the artist, 59, would eventually grow weary of the art installation when there was no more work to do on it.

“It’s sort of like a painter that keeps painting the same thing over and over,” Painter said. “Or a band that always plays the same song.”

The 2019 news story about Tiny Town, in which every building represented a piece of Painter’s life story, brought the reclusive artist a lot of attention. And visitors, he said, from all over the world.

It was fun for a while, a new adventure, leading to all kinds of events on the property at 2520 Emerson Ave. S. There were weddings, poetry readings and dozens of concerts. A highlight for Painter was seeing the Radolescents (featuring former members of the legendary punk band, the Adolescents) play the Tiny Town stage.

“We sold tickets through Ticketmaster!” he said.

Then he tore down Tiny Town so he could create something new, which was Outpost 11, a sort of post-apocalyptic version of Tiny Town with a Mad Max vibe. There were watchtowers, torches and repurposed junk.

The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000.
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000. [ PANDA PHOTO STU | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]

“Then it became kind of a bummer,” he said, “because I didn’t want to live in that.”

So he tore down Outpost 11 to create the Cove, a third incarnation of Tiny Town that is closer to the original, and meant to feel like a “little Florida beachy kind of town you can just relax in.” Elements of Tiny Town persist. There’s the motel pool, and the drive-in theater.

The property, and the entire tiny town on top of it, were listed for sale this week by St. Petersburg’s Luxe Properties International, with an asking price of $450,000.

Painter said it’s time for him to move on to the next adventure, away from here, at least for a while.

“I’m going to get a used car and a used dog and I’m just going to hit the road,” he said. “I’ve given away mostly everything. Ultimately, wherever I land, all I need is water nearby, whether it’s a river or an ocean.”

Related: Welcome to St. Petersburg's Tiny Town. Population: one cool artist dude

Painter said he’s not attached to the Cove’s tiny buildings, “progress is progress, if it gets torn down,” but he does worry about the rainbow eucalyptus tree that he planted when it was the size of a coffee can.

Listing agent Gina Marie Foti said she does not think Painter will sell to anyone who isn’t “a creative type of person or something he thinks is good.”

As of June 3, Foti said there’d been interest from a “mini zoo with reptiles,” which seemed promising.

The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000.
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000. [ PANDA PHOTO STUDIO | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]

Painter sees the property as an opportunity for someone who wants to get involved with the local arts community.

“That would normally take years, but this would be turnkey entry into that,” he said. “If they want, I’ll even introduce them to all my artist friends.”

The Warehouse Arts District seems poised for growth. The Factory St. Pete, a collection of event spaces and arts related businesses in 90,000 square feet of former warehouse space, debuted in late 2020 and will eventually be joined by Fairgrounds, a large “immersive art space.” Joe Furst, a key player in Miami’s Wynwood development, has purchased nine acres in the Warehouse Arts District for redevelopment.

The motel pool in the Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District.
The motel pool in the Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District. [ PANDA PHOTO STUDIO | Courtesy of Panda Photo Studio ]
The space had been remodeled several times by Dan Painter.
The space had been remodeled several times by Dan Painter. [ PANDA PHOTO ST | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000.
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000. [ PANDA PHOTO STUI | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000.
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000. [ PANDA PHOTO STUDIO | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000.
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000. [ PANDA PHOTO STUDIO | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000.
The Tiny Town space, now known as The Cove, in St. Petersburg's Warehouse Arts District is for sale for $450,000. [ PANDA PHOTO STUDIO | Courtesy of the Property Shoppers ]