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Deveron Gibbons' promise of 20 jobs in jeopardy as development plans languish

Deveron Gibbons' proposed project across from Tangerine Plaza is months behind schedule. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Published Aug. 16, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Former mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons' plans to develop two acres across the street from Tangerine Plaza — where two supermarkets failed — could be in trouble.

His vision for the property at 2100 18th Ave. S, leased from the city, include a gas station, convenience store, soul food restaurant and a medical services building.

Under the agreement with the city, Gibbons' TLM Investment Group 1 was supposed to have begun construction by May 1. That did not happen and the city dispatched a default letter telling TLM it was in violation of its lease and development agreement.

"I have to go by the contract and that's not being upheld from my perspective," Alan DeLisle, the city's development administrator, said of the July 13 letter.

"There's been no activity on the site for a very long time. They have obligations and if those obligations are not met, then we call the developer's attention to that fact. Our job is to make sure we implement the contracts that are approved by council."

Gibbons declined to be interviewed.

"We have consulted with our attorney and TLM has decided that it will not discuss contractual matters concerning its business except with the parties with whom TLM has contracted," he said in a text.

DeLisle said TLM has now filed an application for a construction permit, which is being reviewed.

"We have asked them for additional information about the project, particularly about the financing, which we have not received," he said.

Gibbons and his business partner, Doug Cobarras, had been pursuing the site across from the troubled Tangerine Plaza since 2014, when the city first issued a Request for Proposals. Gibbons blamed lack of progress on economic difficulties in the low-income area. In 2017, TLM asked for, and received, an extension on its agreement with the city.

"We've now extended this a couple of times for them and it was very clear the last time what had to be done. ... Not only did we do an amendment to the contract, we gave them even more time to get everything in order," DeLisle said.

"If the contract is violated, then the contract is null and void. There's a process that we follow. ...We started that process by sending the letter. Ultimately, we would love the project to be completed."

Gibbons, an executive with Amscot Financial and a St. Petersburg College trustee, had said the development would produce as many as 20 jobs.

City Council chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, who earlier this year promoted its apparent progress as a "good news item" during a council meeting, said this week that she is disappointed.

"The project was going to bring jobs to the community," she said. "At this point, I don't see this project being salvaged."

In March, Gibbons told the Tampa Bay Times that his firm would break ground by May 1. Council member Amy Foster had earlier been skeptical of TLM's ability to meet that deadline, since it had not yet closed on a loan.

"The Midtown area is ready for progress and not just promises," she said, reacting to the default letter.

"I was concerned that this project could be started in the proposed timeline and while I wish it was moving forward, I'm glad to see we aren't delaying moving forward to ensure we can deliver a catalyst project for the community."

The city recently met with a representative of Gibbons' group, but DeLisle declined to discuss the meeting. He also did not directly answer whether TLM could still meet the deadline to complete the project.

"They have to be finished by the end of the year and they don't have their building permit," he said.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes

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