ST. PETERSBURG - When Ramnarace and Marva Jagdeo bought the Holiday Motel in the mid ’80s for $288,600, there wasn’t much along Fourth Street N except other motels and independent restaurants like Pepin’s and China City. Even in the early 2000s, Fourth Street was so sleepy that city officials had to offer Carrabba’s generous incentives to open next to Sunken Gardens.
Since then, Carrabba’s has been joined by dozens of other chain restaurants, mattress stores and corporate owned businesses. But Pepin’s and China City are gone, and the Holiday Motel soon will be too — sold for $3.25 million to a Chattanooga Tenn. company that plans a retail center primarily featuring local businesses.
The 15,000-square-foot 4th Street Shoppes, whose long profile evokes the motel’s, was designed to be "something that the neighborhood will love,'' said Michaelann Murphy, Hutton’s director of real estate. The company, which expects to open the center next fall, has nearly 1,000 projects in 37 states.
The price was among the top paid for property along Fourth Street N and reflects its status as one of Tampa Bay’s prime shopping and dining streets.
"As far as a retail corridor, that’s basically as good as it gets for us,'' said Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty.
Known for its cottage doors painted in bright Crayon-box colors, the Holiday Motel was built in 1940 as housing for seasonal residents. In recent years, it had catered mostly to long-term tenants and had become a run-down, " slightly seedy establishment'' as one neighbor described it to city officials.
The organization Preserve the ‘Burg sought to have the motel declared a local historic landmark, citing it as an example of early 20th Century roadside architecture. City Council denied the request and Keller Williams Realty handled the sale to Hutton, which has started to remove asbestos prior to demolition.
Although not every new business on Fourth Street N has survived — a mattress store and burger restaurant have been among recent casualties in a crowded field — Twitty sees no reason why the street shouldn’t flourish.
"As long as we continue to see growth in downtown St. Pete and a strong housing market through the Old Northeast, St. Pete is going to have a lot of traffic and a lot of buying power moving along that corridor,'' Twitty said. "Which is why I think these guys came in from out of state and saw a strong spot to do something.''