After six years of effort, south St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District may be on its way to becoming a destination.
Tens of millions of dollars have been invested in upgrading existing buildings since the area’s redevelopment was first proposed in 2013 and commitments have been made to spend tens of millions more on new construction.
“We’re progressing, although a little slower than we initially thought,” Gary Jones, economic development officer in St. Petersburg’s Economic & Workforce Development Department, said January 24. “The Skyway Marina District seems to be getting its footing.”
Over those six years investors have signed up to build 600 market-rate rental apartments expected to draw hundreds of new residents and spark development of other amenities. New medical providers have moved in, offering services ranging from dialysis to pediatrics, and more are on the way.
Publix, Wendy’s and Burger King have torn down their old buildings and replaced them with new ones, while McDonald’s, Taco Bell and the Bay Pointe Plaza and Marina Village shopping centers have all been remodeled.
About 500 jobs in technology, marketing and law have moved into the previously part-empty Ceridian building. And a five-year anniversary block party last fall was deemed successful enough that organizers hope to make it a regular event.
“We want to do an annual thing,” said Misty Bottorf, executive director of the Skyway Marina District. “We had an estimated 1,500 people show up.”
But while officials are pleased with the progress so far, they say important components are still missing. On their wish list: a hotel, more office and retail space, so-called workforce housing, entertainment and new jobs. Efforts to promote the area continue.
“There are multiple committees that meet on a regular basis to address the codes and the look of the area, as well as business development,” said St. Petersburg City Councilmember Steve Kornell, who represents the district. “I encourage anyone, especially business owners, to take a look in the Skyway Marina District if they are considering opening a new business.”
Among the latest developments:
— A new Wawa gas station and convenience store is expected to open around May 1 on the former site of Bank of America after being built in fits and starts.
— Altamonte Springs-based ContraVest is expected to close this summer on the long-empty former Kmart property. Construction is expected to start soon after on a residential rental complex including 308 living units, a clubhouse, swimming pool, fitness center and dog park. A spot on the southwest corner of the property has been reserved for a separately owned restaurant.
— Stoned Pizza Italian Grille, the latest in a series of new restaurants in the area, will soon open at the Marina Village. Other recent arrivals include Yummy Teriyaki at the Bay Pointe Plaza, Berlins Doener at 4195 34th St. S., and the upscale Getaway Maximo Marina, which was built at a cost of about $2.5 million during the $25 million overhaul of the Maximo Marina.
— A CubeSmart self-storage building opened last fall in the first phase of the $70 million Sur Club apartment complex developed by Tampa-based Phillips Development & Realty at the former Home Depot property. Plans include about 300 market-rate rental apartments as well as two new restaurants facing 34th Street.
— A Bayfront doctors group has signed a lease on the former Skyway Diner and will soon start converting it into medical offices.
— A new membership-based self-service car wash is slated for the site of the former Regions Bank in front of Walmart.
— Dozens of antique dealers continue to draw shoppers to the previously rundown Skyway Mall, where tens of thousands of dollars have been invested in renovations.
— Public art will start blooming along 34th Street S. in the next few months when half a dozen Dumpsters are painted and stenciled with images of Florida marine life. Plans are being finalized for a mural and projection art slated for the CubeSmart wall facing I-275 that will highlight local themes and bring attention to the district.
— Upcoming infrastructure improvements include the long-delayed installation of 150 pedestrian-friendly light posts and decorative banners intended to help brand the district. Modern shelters will be built at 13 bus stops along 34th and 37th streets and 54th Avenue S. in colors that match the district’s color scheme.
Jones says that while redevelopment effort has gotten over the hump, it isn’t on auto-pilot quite yet.
“Until I see vertical construction I won’t breathe a sigh of relief,” he said. “It has been slow coming.”