It hasn’t exactly been a gold rush, but business has begun moving into the Skyway Marina District.
Progress in the chronically-underserved 1.5 mile south St. Pete corridor has been snail’s-pace-slow since the City’s detailed “creating a destination district” revitalization plan in 2013, frustrating residents and business owners in equal numbers.
Nearly 50,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the district, which has no major retail shopping outlets, and relatively few dining options.
The area is rife with shuttered-up restaurants and storefronts, Mom and Pop motels and grassy, undeveloped lots. “There’s not been any sizeable, Class A multi-family constructed in the area for decades,” said city planner Gary Jones. “I can’t remember the last one.”
That’s about to change. Altamonte Springs-based ContraVest is in the final stages of purchasing the long-vacant Kmart plaza, at 3951 34th Street S., and plans to develop a 308-unit apartment complex, the Addison Skyway Marina, on the 11-acre site. It will consist of three primary four-story buildings, with elevators, and two “carriage house” styled two-story buildings.
“It provides a more cost-effective housing than what’s being produced in downtown right now,” said Mark Ogier, executive vice president of ContraVest. “So you’re able to provide rents at a lower cost than what they’re providing downtown.
“We do think there is some momentum in the redevelopment of the Skyway Marina District. And we want to be a part of it. We like the location, and we think our prospects – our renters – will like the location, being four miles from downtown and four miles from the beach.”
Jones said he is “one hundred percent” certain the district will come into its own. “And yes, I would have hoped that we’d had all kinds of new development open by now.”
Ground was broken in June 2017 on The Sur Club, a mixed-use facility with 300 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail space. The nine-acre tract, between 30th and 32nd Avenues, was purchased from Home Depot, which ultimately decided not to build in the district.
Before starting work on Sur, Tampa’s Phillips Development and Realty constructed a 100,000-square foot CubeSmart self-storage facility on the southeastern side of the property. Construction is nearly complete. The five-story, climate-controlled building will act as a buffer between Sur Club residents and I-275.
Phillips submitted its construction permits for the apartment complex last month, Jones said, and once they’re approved – it shouldn’t take long – construction should begin.
Phone calls to Phillips were not immediately returned for this story.
“Apartments follow population growth and employment,” said ContraVest’s Ogier. “And we think think that in this part of Pinellas County there’s a lot of population growth, and a lot of employment. And not a lot of apartments.”
Meanwhile, the Wawa convenience store announced for the corner of 34th Street and 38th Avenue has been delayed. The ground, which was marked off and cleared last spring, is overgrown with grass and weeds.
Alex Czopel, regional real estate manager for Wawa, said the delay was simply “a matter of staging store openings in an order that makes sense for operations.” Construction on the store will begin soon, Czopel said, with a 2019 opening to follow.
Still up for grabs is the 10-acre Skyway Plaza, at 62nd Avenue S. Although a few small-business tenants remain, the facility is largely a ghost town.
“A lot of people are kicking the tires around and talking about stuff,” Jones explains, “but nothing’s out there yet that I can talk about.”
When the Getaway restaurant and bar opened at Maximo Marina in July, it brought the first – and only – full liquor license to the Skyway Marina District.
Jones admits that developers seem to be somewhat reluctant to dive into the district head first. He has a theory about it:
“I’d say they’re reluctant because no one else has done anything,” he offered. “And so the first person is a pioneer. No one wants to be the pioneer – everyone wants to follow the pioneer.”
Because its business has been good – more like phenomenal – since opening, the Getaway, in Jones’ mind, is the pioneer.
“I think once people see numbers on that, and see how well they’re doing, then you’re going to see a stampede of restaurants come to the area,” he said. “It’s the same with multi-family.
“So developers don’t have something to compare to, how their project could work, what could happen. Downtown St. Pete was the same way for a long time, and look at it now.”