The redevelopment of the battered Coquina Key Shopping Plaza is one step closer to reality.
In a four-to-one vote Tuesday evening, with commission member Valarie Nussbaum-Harris casting the sole “no” vote, the City Community Planning and Preservation Commission approved recommending that the city council should approve the development agreement with Stoneweg US, which plans to revitalize the shopping strip at 4350 6th St. S. into a mixed-use destination with housing and a potential grocer.
Stoneweg, a St. Petersburg real estate investment company that purchased the 110,500-square-foot shopping center for over $7 million, is proposing to build 458 residential units with workforce housing, 21,000 square feet of retail space and new amenities.
The site is situated between Lake Maggiore and the bay, providing scenic views, on the edge of the St. Petersburg city limits.
While the developer is planning to breathe new life into the site, there has been controversy from the surrounding neighborhood concerning the height of the new buildings, the density, and claims that there isn’t adequate space for a large enough grocer to serve what’s been labeled a food desert.
“We understand the desire from the neighborhood to have a large grocer. Stoneweg has reached out to 15 chain grocers, but there hasn’t been interest for a full-size grocery store; however, there’s is still room for a smaller grocer,” said Kyle Parks, spokesperson for Stoneweg and principal of B2 Communications. “The shopping center is a blight on the community, and Stoneweg wants to bring in high-quality retailers to help elevate this part of the city.”
Stoneweg is currently in conversations with several market-size smaller grocers, a coffee shop, specialty food stores and a fitness studio, Denise Kelly, a development manager with Stoneweg, said during the meeting.
Winn-Dixie once expressed interest in potentially occupying the site, but the plans never materialized.
“Sometimes you need to rethink what a grocery store is, and the smaller retail spaces are more sustainable in terms of their rent and overhead expenses, and many times, are owned by residents,” CPPC Vice Chair Lisa Wannemacher said, referencing how niche grocers such as Trader Joe’s and Aldi can operate in tight footprints that are 12,500 square feet or smaller.
The free-standing retail portion of this project would bring in roughly eight businesses and will include dedicated parking, outdoor seating areas and a large park on the southwest corner of the site.
The developer would reserve 20% of the multifamily units for residents earning 80-120% of the area’s median income (AMI). The exact unit mix of the project still needs to be confirmed.
Although the development is approved to reach 150 feet in height, Stoneweg plans to not reach that limit and said the multifamily buildings will not be “staring down the nearby residents” as it would be built in the heart of the site – and there would also be a buffer.
“We applaud the mixed-income strategy the developers have proposed for housing. The strongest neighborhoods are ones that house families with diverse income levels. This project embraces this best practice in urban planning. And it is the right scale for our neighborhood on 4th Street as a major transit corridor,” St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership CEO Jason Mathis wrote in a letter of support to the CPPC, stating he wrote the letter in his capacity as a resident of the neighboring Bahama Shores suburb.
“The additional market rate and workforce housing [units] at this site will attract retail investment in South St. Pete including at the Sunshine Skyway Plaza and Tangerine Plaza,” the letter continued, with Mathis stating he too hopes it will bring in a grocer. “No development can solve every challenge a community faces. But this development will go a long way to creating needed housing, offer new retail and create an environment that will attract additional services.”
Stoneweg is still in the design phase, bus does plan to include new amenities at the site such as a rooftop space on the taller structures, a clubhouse, a swimming pool and a bark park.
With the approval from the commission, the project will have its first reading Sept. 8 and a second reading Sept. 29. The project will also go before the St. Petersburg Development Review Commission.
The developer is targeting to break ground on the retail structure this third or fourth quarter. The multifamily component is expected to break ground first in the first or second quarter of 2023.
BDG Architects is the architect, Osborn Engineering is serving as the project civil engineer and Suffolk Construction is the general contractor.