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Construction and demolition hum along in St. Pete Skyway Marina District

A giant mural visible from the highway, apartment projects and a new waterfront restaurant help to boost the district near Eckerd College.

ST. PETERSBURG — The five-story mural of a woman floating amid geometric sea tones catches the eye off the interstate. There’s hope it will become a landmark for the emerging Skyway Marina District, which turns 7 years old in October.

On nearby 34th Street S, three apartment projects are rising rapidly, with the promise of 849 new units. And while the coronavirus pandemic has not slowed construction, two of the project developers are monitoring its effect on the rental market.

“We think the apartment market will be back to where it was before COVID-19, barring anything hugely different,” said Jack Dougherty, former district president and owner of the $50 million, 245-unit Marina Walk apartment complex going up at 4601 34th St. S.

Jack Dougherty is developing the Marina Walk apartment complex on the former Flamingo Resort site in St. Petersburg.
Jack Dougherty is developing the Marina Walk apartment complex on the former Flamingo Resort site in St. Petersburg. [ Photo Courtesy of Jack Dougherty ]

“Right now, a lot of people in the apartment market don’t want to take the risk of moving," he said, adding he expects that to change as the economy improves and employees head back to work.

Phillips Development is building the Sur Club, a $75 million project that includes 296 apartments under construction and a completed storage facility that showcases the 55-foot high, 200-foot wide mural by Tampa Bay artist Matt Kress.

Don Phillips, managing director of Phillips Development, said the goal is to be finished around the beginning of 2021, allowing “enough room for the rental market to stabilize.”

Skyway Marina District stretches from 30th Avenue S to 54th Avenue S along 34th Street, and includes businesses west, such as Maximo Marina, which has benefited from a $25 million renovation. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods, including the waterfront communities of Maximo and Broadwater, have clamored for more sit-down restaurants, retail shops, offices and jobs.

Related: After five years, the Skyway Marina District is filling vacant properties and welcoming new development

The newest member of the district is Tiki Docks Skyway Bar & Grill. It will replace the Getaway restaurant at 3769 50th Ave. S., which closed last year. Tara Matheny, vice president of brand development for 23 Restaurant Services, which is behind the new restaurant, said the target is for an early July opening.

Related: The Getaway has closed in south St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District

“We are absolutely ecstatic about coming into that community," she said. "When we came across this location, it stood out for how strong the community around it is,” including the supporting energy of the marina and boating community.

An abandoned Kmart was demolished to make way for the third apartment project. The first building on the site is expected to be ready by the fourth quarter of this year, said Mark Ogier, principal of ContraVest of Altamonte Springs. The firm’s 308-unit luxury apartment complex — Addison Skyway Marina — is expected to be complete by this time next year,

Marina Walk’s eight-story apartment complex will include one- and two-bedroom units that face Boca Ciega Bay, with those on the third-floor and above offering water views. Dougherty, who owned the Flamingo Resort that was demolished last year to make way for the complex, expects his high-end apartments to attract married professionals between the ages of 30 and 60.

Construction workers on May 19 at Marina Walk in St. Petersburg's Skyway Marina District. The new project is rising at the former Flamingo Resort site.
Construction workers on May 19 at Marina Walk in St. Petersburg's Skyway Marina District. The new project is rising at the former Flamingo Resort site. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]

The project benefited from the coronavirus-related shut down of construction in South Florida, causing workers to move northward, he said.

“We originally had been concerned about the supply chain, concrete and steel," Dougherty added. “At this point, things are going very well.”

Dougherty doesn’t think there will be too many apartments in the district.

”We don’t see it as an overwhelming number," he said. “I look at it not as competition, but improving the demographic, bringing in a younger demographic, a ‘let’s go out and do things’ demographic.”

The Sur Club, announced in 2016, has just hit its stride. Besides apartments, the project will include two restaurants, a five-story parking garage and the storage facility. The mural on the facility is meant to be “a subliminal designator for the area,” Phillips said.

“We are working through a process to animate it through the evening, so that it will be dynamic,” Phillips said of the mural, which will be highlighted with 3-D projectors.

Artist Matt Kress
Artist Matt Kress [ Matt Kress ]

Kress, who lives on St. Pete Beach, has created murals throughout Tampa Bay, including Ybor City, Channelside and St. Petersburg. He noted that the storage facility, near the last exit to St. Pete Beach, was the perfect canvas for his vision. The woman portrayed on the mural captures the anticipation and joy of a day at the beach, he said.

The district also is getting workforce housing. Blue Sky Communities of Tampa will demolish an old motel at 3900 34th Street S for its SkyWay Loft Apartments. The 65-unit development will consist of two buildings at 3900 34th St. S and 3319 39th Ave. S.

Nearby, the dilapidated Ponderosa restaurant at 3800 34th Street S has been demolished and the vacant property listed for $1.5 million, real estate broker Kent Rodahaver said, adding that he recommended the demolition.

“My reasoning is that a prime development site in the heart of the Skyway Marina District will be more appealing than a rundown and dated restaurant,” he said.