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Detwiler’s says ‘no’ to St. Pete – for now

Mark Parker

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A Detwiler's Farm Market in Bradenton. Its owners says they are no longer considering a location in St. Petersburg's Tangerine Plaza redevelopment. Photo: Google.

Contrary to numerous recent reports, Detwiler’s Farm Market has no plans for a location in St. Petersburg’s embattled Tangerine Plaza.

The Sarasota-based grocer became a trending local topic following a June 6 city council meeting. Council members approved the Sugar Hill Group’s proposal to redevelop the site after a member mentioned ongoing discussions with Detwiler’s that could satisfy an agreement mandate.

Rev. Louis Murphy said the group needed site control before formally negotiating a contract with Detwiler’s, which it received with Thursday’s approval. However, the grocer’s owners have announced that a deal is off the table.

“We have not secured any locations in the St. Pete area,” Detwiler’s told the Catalyst in a prepared statement Monday. “But we are always looking for options in surrounding areas – and we never know when opportunities will allow us to expand.”

The area around the derelict plaza at 1794 22nd St. S. is long-known for its lack of fresh food options. The area was a federally designated food desert before a Walmart Neighborhood Market shuttered in 2017.

City officials have prioritized including a grocer or market in redevelopment plans for the past seven years. Sugar Hill first sought to acquire the property in 2020.

Sugar Hill submitted its latest proposal in June 2022. Preliminary negotiations with Detwiler’s represented long-awaited progress for the development team. They now have 18 additional months to secure the necessary funding and a formal commitment from a grocer.

Murphy called Detwiler’s a “great supermarket” with fresh food and “affordable prices” at the June 6 meeting. “It will be a great plus to our community,” he said.

Murphy said the store’s Bradenton location attracts people from Pinellas County and from New Port Richey, a 60-mile trip. “So, again, just super excited about that,” he added.

Many residents and city officials shared Murphy’s excitement. Detwiler’s began in Pennsylvania as an Amish family-owned butcher and retail shop. The chain now operates six stores with a loyal following in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

However, according to a WTSP-TV report Monday night, owner Henry Detwiler Sr. said the company’s focus is establishing a distribution network around its headquarters. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

“We really told the people in southern St. Pete that we’re going to have to walk right now,” Detwiler told the station. “We sort of came home, and we said we’re not ready yet to go across the bridge … because they wanted to make it more of a community thing and have some buildings, and that’s what they need.

“We want to come over there, but I see St. Pete in years 2028 and 2027.”

Sugar Hill’s $37 million project includes 115 affordable and workforce housing units and 10,000 square feet of retail space. A grocer must occupy at least 3,000 square feet for five years.

The mayoral administration received three other offers. Two would have revitalized the plaza without demolishing it to build mixed-income housing. Positive Impact Ministries, a local nonprofit, proposed creating a supermarket with free food.

Councilmember Brandi Gabbard voted in favor of Sugar Hill’s proposal. She noted Tuesday that the developers have only controlled the site for five days.

“So, all of their financing, any sort of tenant relationships – we’re a long time away from that,” Gabbard said. “For me, a grocery store, regardless of how it is run and who it is run by, is critical to that development. And I think the agreement … clearly delineates that.”

In addition to a market like Detweiler’s, Gabbard said a local community-owned co-operative grocer could potentially occupy the space. She and Councilmember Richie Floyd are also exploring establishing a city-owned grocery store.

Gabbard said the mayoral administration has shown it is “favorable to exploring this option” through initial conversations. She added that city officials have discussed mandating a grocery store in other prominent redevelopment projects.

“It happened in Coquina (Key) Plaza; it’s happening in Tangerine, and we’re even talking about it as part of the Historic Gas Plant District,” Gabbard said. “I think that for these smaller footprint areas, where we’re really trying to fight food insecurity … we’re going to have to be bold in the things we do to address those issues.”

 

 

 

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1 Comment

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    Ryan Adams

    June 13, 2024at9:02 am

    Wow, st petes so rough you cant even get another food store. Time to abandon ship and move somewhere you can get food.

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