Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla plans to transform the Kane’s Furniture liquidation center in Lealman – one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the county – into a state-of-the-art delivery and repair center.
The 102,410-square-foot facility would be converted into an automotive store where customers can become familiar with the different Tesla models, test drive cars, purchase or lease cars in-store or online and have their vehicles repaired, according to county records obtained by the St. Pete Catalyst.
Last week, the Pinellas County Board of Adjustment and Appeals approved a conditional request for Tesla to redevelop the dilapidated building at 4601 34th St. N. Tesla is expected to purchase the property this month.
The news of Elon Musk’s Tesla company entering Lealman is significant as Lealman, bounded by St. Petersburg to the south and east, has long been considered a neglected area. The new center may not only spur more activity in Lealman, but it would also become the first Tesla center in Pinellas County.
Tesla’s store locations are referred to as centers rather than standard dealerships due to Tesla’s direct sales model – directly selling the vehicles to customers without the use of an independent dealer – which strays from the traditional big auto business model. Many states ban this model; However, Florida does not. Today, Tesla has a center in Tampa, several in South Florida and in other parts of Florida, according to its website.
A breakdown of the Tesla center
- The showroom would be roughly 3,000 square feet. The plans show Tesla’s showroom that would front 34th Street and delivery would take place out of this location for both vehicles ordered online and on-site as most of the fleet is custom ordered.
- Roughly 35,000 to 40,000 square feet will be dedicated to providing service and repairs. The maintenance services will be located in the middle of the building.
- There will also be a designated portion of the building dedicated to storing parts, which will be 8,000 to 10,000 square feet.
- The vehicle storage will be 50,000 square feet, which will primarily be used for the ordered vehicles awaiting delivery.
“Indoor storage is highly beneficial in markets such as Florida. When vehicles are received, they are prepared, washed and tested thoroughly for safety and other operation checks prior to the customer being notified that the vehicle is ready for pickup,” county documents read. “With the changing weather conditions in Florida, having clean, climate-controlled storage helps to facilitate an efficient delivery process to the customer and provides for an excellent customer experience as if they’re buying a car directly off the showroom floor of a car dealership.”
Helping drive a paradigm shift
The documents from the applicant also state Tesla’s plans for the 4.21-acre site align with the goals of the Community Redevelopment Area in targeting reinvestment as it will also enhance the site with structural improvements and the appearance of the property. Tesla plans to repaint the building, install a new roof and new signage, and eliminate the majority of the truck loading doors from the front of the building facing 34th Street.
The new center will also create 50 jobs, boosting the local economy. The documents note the technicians will need to be trained on the software for the electric vehicles.
The documents did not indicate a timeline of when the Tesla center would be completed.
While the new center will pump more investment into Lealman, The Lealman Exchange, a 77,000 square-foot, 6-acre campus, has played a major role in uplifting the community. The Lealman Exchange works with the YMCA and CareerSource, which are also housed in the same building, to provide programs and services such as job training to meet the needs of an underserved community.
Another project in the works is an Amazon delivery center. Last year, Amazon started working on building its 40,000-square-foot delivery station at 6101 45th St. N., near the Lealman border.