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Plan to turn rundown St. Petersburg motel into a food court is dead

Developer Jonathan Daou, New York City and St. Petersburg, poses in front of the former Monticello Motel, 1700 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, in October. Dauo purchased the rundown property in late 2014 and planned to renovate it into what he called a "Food Motel," in which the rooms would be converted into food stalls and shops. But the plan ran into snags, including parking issues, and now dead. SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES

Developer Jonathan Daou, New York City and St. Petersburg, poses in front of the former Monticello Motel, 1700 4th Street North, St. Petersburg, in October. Dauo purchased the rundown property in late 2014 and planned to renovate it into what he called a "Food Motel," in which the rooms would be converted into food stalls and shops. But the plan ran into snags, including parking issues, and now dead. SCOTT KEELER | TIMES
Published Mar. 21, 2016

ST. PETERSBURG — In a year of nonstop restaurant news, it was an especially exciting announcement: New York real estate investor Jonathan Daou would convert a derelict motel into a trendy food court.

That was last fall. Now those ambitious plans have collapsed, and Daou is selling the old Monticello Motel at 1700 Fourth St. N. He didn't return calls for comment, but his Realtor said the property already is under contract for "near'' the $1.2 million asking price.

"Actually, he wishes he could go forward but it really came down to the city of St. Petersburg and parking,'' agent John Barkett said Monday. "He went through a pre-plan (review) and that's when parking became an issue.''

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Rundown motel to become cutting-edge collection of local restaurants

Barkett would not disclose what the new owners plan to do with the property, which is zoned for commercial use, except to say "it definitely won't be a food motel, I can guarantee that.''

Daou, who owns several buildings in New York that host pop-up fashion shows and other events, paid $825,000 for the Monticello in late 2014. He drew widespread media attention in October when he announced plans to convert it into a market like the popular "food halls'' in New York, New Orleans and other major cities.

Independent food vendors and chefs would operate out of the 18 motel rooms, creating dine-in and take-out dishes geared to the seasons and the availability of fresh ingredients. Customers would sit in a communal dining area in the motel's courtyard, which would be covered and lit by antique light bulbs.

"This is a great use for old buildings instead of tearing them down and putting up chain stores,'' Daou said at the time, adding that he wanted to market his new "food motel'' concept to other developers.

But after the Monticello's customers were moved out and fencing went up, nothing happened. The 64-year-old motel fell into increasing disrepair, drawing complaints from other businesses in an area near downtown St. Petersburg and Crescent Lake Park that has seen an explosion of new restaurants and higher-end stores.

The city's zoning official, Elizabeth Abernethy, said Daou and city staff discussed only a "concept'' that included both restaurant and retail uses, such as selling produce or jewelry.

"You couldn't turn all the buildings into restaurants because there wouldn't have been enough parking,'' Abernethy said Monday. By mixing restaurant and retail uses, however, Daou might have been able to meet parking requirements or get a variance.

"But he never submitted any plans,'' Abernethy said.

Daou still owns several other properties in St. Petersburg. Among them are a building at 965 Central Ave., which he is leasing to Tampa-based Gulfshore Bank, and the former North Ward School on 11th Street N that is being redeveloped as a mixed-used project, Barkett said.

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"Jonathan Daou is a visionary,'' he said. "He's got multiple concepts for many of his properties.''

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate

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