The controversial Coquina Key Shopping Plaza redevelopment is taking another step forward after receiving approval from the city council.
Stoneweg US, a St. Petersburg real estate investment company that purchased the 110,500-square-foot Coquina Key Shopping Plaza, is spearheading the proposed redevelopment of the dilapidated 14.5-acre shopping center at 4350 6th St. S.
The plan entails building a mixed-use development consisting of a seven-story apartment building with up to 465 units with at least 20% dedicated to workforce housing, a minimum of 20,000 square feet of retail, and providing a fresh food source – since the Save-A-Lot shuttered, the community has become a food desert. However, the developers have not inked a deal with a new grocer.
Despite hearing testimony from a majority of opponents Thursday, with a primary concern on how the development plan cannot support a sufficient grocer, the St. Petersburg City Council approved a two-part item for the development agreement from Stoneweg, and a zoning change from corridor commercial suburban to commercial.
The vote includes language that the developer must work with the city to further define efforts for commercial uses.
The council also received 82 emails from residents expressing concerns on the density, building height and inability to secure a grocer.
“We are hoping this project will be catalytic to the neighborhood and will spur additional investment,” Denise Kelly, a development manager with Stoneweg, said during the meeting.
She said Stoneweg has engaged with 63 brokerage companies, 15 major grocers and over 100 retailers.
The city is considering offering the developers a $50,000 incentive to bring a grocer to the center. Director of Economic and Workforce Development Brian Caper is scheduled to meet with the developers this week to discuss the incentive, Derek Kilborn, the city’s manager of urban planning and historic preservation, informed the council.
Mike McGraw, president of Coquina Key Neighborhood Association, said the community hosted several listening sessions concerning the redevelopment, and the residents have been “loud and clear” – they need access to affordable and fresh food and access to a pharmacy.
“The city needs to come back to the table and ask for higher minimum square footage of retail and some sort of public-private partnership where we can entertain the options of trying to bring a national retailer for a grocer. We only have one shot at this,” McGraw said.
Walter Borden, president of the Bahama Shores Neighborhood Association, also spoke, asking the council to reject the development agreement and rezoning request. He alleged the plan does not comply with the St. Pete 2050 Plan and the city’s comprehensive plan, also noting that the community will continue to be a food desert.
Other opponents had similar comments, additionally noting the limited parking spaces and transportation options at the site.
Jason Mathis, CEO of the Downtown St. Petersburg Partnership, was one of the very few proponents of the project.
Mathis acknowledged the community’s struggles as a food desert and agrees there needs to be a fresh food source, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a traditional food market and the developers are also including affordable housing into the development, helping address St. Pete’s affordable housing crisis.
“No single development can solve every community problem, but this goes a long way towards solving many city goals,” he said. “I understand the developers worked hard to recruit a large grocery store, but they cannot control national grocery store decisions.”
He provided the example of untraditional food sources such as sourcing from locally based Brick Street Farms, an urban farmer growing produce from shipping containers, and how smaller niche grocers are looking for smaller footprints.
“It would be a huge mistake to force the developers to build a large 40,000-square-foot traditional suburban grocery store with hundreds of surface stalls that sit vacant for five years waiting to convince a major grocery store to take up residence. We already have something like that and it’s not successful,” he said.
Charlie Boscarino, president of Retail Solutions Advisors (handling the leasing for Stoneweg) said they received a “hard no” from Aldi three different times. They’ve also reached out to Publix, Trader Joe’s and Detwiler’s.
…..Boscarino said the grocers were not interested as the density did not meet their standards, however, the firm is in talks with a smaller organic-based grocer to utilize 3,500 square feet.
A second public hearing will be held Sept. 29.