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Bill Edwards selling St. Petersburg’s Sundial to Safety Harbor developers

The former BayWalk complex is on track to sell for $27.5 million in mid-February.
 
A nearly three-story working sundial serves as the centerpiece of the Sundial shopping complex in St. Petersburg. Developer Bill Edwards has reached a deal to sell the property to developers in Safety Harbor, according to documents filed with the city.
A nearly three-story working sundial serves as the centerpiece of the Sundial shopping complex in St. Petersburg. Developer Bill Edwards has reached a deal to sell the property to developers in Safety Harbor, according to documents filed with the city. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Feb. 1, 2022|Updated Feb. 1, 2022

Eleven years after buying the downtown St. Petersburg shopping block now known as Sundial, Bill Edwards is ready to sell.

The developer has reached a deal to sell the former BayWalk complex on the 100 block of Second Ave. N in mid-February, according to documents filed with the city. The buyer is a limited liability corporation tied to Paradise Ventures, a developer based in Safety Harbor.

The City Council on Feb. 10 will discuss transferring the city’s parking contract with Sundial’s current owners to the buyers.

The purchase price is $27.5 million, said Paradise vice president and chief financial officer Chuck Ernst.

“Especially with all the residential growth, it has the ability to be a major retail and social hub for the downtown area,” Ernst said. “You don’t have any real central area right now. Everybody either migrates up and down Beach Drive or the various parts of Central, the Warehouse District, the Edge District. This has got the opportunity to be a major attraction area.”

The deal has been in the works since October, Ernst said. Edwards did not immediately return calls Tuesday morning.

Built in 2000, BayWalk was a hub of nightlife and activity in a downtown that at the time lacked it, with shops, restaurants and a movie theater drawing crowds every weekend. But the property struggled in the late 2000s, leading Edwards to purchase it for $5.2 million in 2011. He invested between $30 million and $40 million in remaking it — about what it cost to build in the first place — and added upscale restaurants like Ruth’s Chris and the gourmet grocery Locale Market.

Locale closed in 2019 to make way for a food hall from the developers of Tampa’s Armature Works. That project never materialized, leading to a lawsuit from Edwards and the developers filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last fall.

“The mall that I purchased was blighted,” Edwards said in a 2020 statement about the lawsuit. “The Sundial today is a focal point for our community, it has given me great pride and happiness, and a sense of accomplishment. So I see it as a tragedy that one third of the Sundial is and remains vacant for reasons that have been beyond my control.”

Just before the pandemic, Edwards announced plans for a co-working space at Sundial. That didn’t materialize, either. Ernst said it’s still a possibility, but they may also now market that space for a single tenant instead.

Ernst said they’ve already been in discussions with new potential retailers, including a fitness group. He doesn’t anticipate vertical expansion in the near term, but said “there’s a future upside for that down the road.”

“There was a lot of upside in changing the property and repositioning it, especially with all the residential growth in the market,” he said. “We’re out looking for different components to look in there and make it a high-traffic destination again.”

Paradise Ventures’ other local projects include a seven-story parking garage in Clearwater Beach and Tampa’s Shoppes at South Dale shopping center, home to a Crunch Fitness and other properties.

Ernst said it will likely be six months or so before locals start noticing changes at Sundial.

“Bill kept it in excellent shape,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people we’re talking to and a lot of balls in the air. Once we start figuring out how we’re putting all those pieces together and what the best mix is, you’ll start seeing a lot more activity.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.