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The Factory’s owners say it’s not closing

Bill DeYoung

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Artist Ricky Watts painted a SHINE mural on the north facade of The Factory St. Pete in 2021. Publicity photo.

After a flurry of activity on social media, the co-owners of The Factory St. Pete issued a joint statement Tuesday in which they explained that reports of the imminent closure of the 6.5 acre “center for the arts” were unfounded.

“Yesterday’s inaccurate social media posts reporting that The Factory is closing were made in error and were the result of a miscommunication,” it read. “We apologize for any confusion that was caused.”

The Factory is jointly owned by the Dimmitt family and Jordan and Kara Behar, of Behar + Peteranecz Architecture.

“As co-owners we believe in the unique mission and purpose of The Factory, and we support the creative community in establishing The Factory as a venue where artists and neighbors can connect, thrive, and flourish,” the Behars were quoted in Tuesday’s statement.

Liz Dimmitt, who is CEO of Fairgrounds, the 12,000-foot immersive art experience inside The Factory, said “as an owner of The Factory and its anchor tenant, I am a deeply invested member of this community and plan to be operating onsite for years to come. I look forward to being a part of The Factory’s future.”

The future of The Factory, created from eight vacant factory and warehouse buildings, had been called into question Monday afternoon with an unexpected post on its official Facebook page:

“The Factory is closing,” it read, alongside an “Out of Business” sign. “Final show this weekend.”

Within hours, dozens of concerned residents had responded to the post, with expressions of shock and disbelief.

The post was subsequently removed, and replaced with one from Dimmitt herself: “We have recently been advised that a part owner of the Factory made a unilateral decision to announce that the Factory was closing. This announcement was not authorized. It is not our intention for the Factory to close and we are striving to assure that does not occur. We will keep you advised as to further developments as this situation evolves.”

None of the owners have responded to interview requests from the Catalyst.

On its own social media, Daddy Kool Records, which moved into The Factory last year, cryptically wrote “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Store owner Manny Kool said Tuesday he was “patiently waiting for this to all get sorted out.” 

Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Steinocher at The Factory during a chamber event in 2021. Photo by Veronica Brezina.

Hopes were high in 2019, when the Dimmitts and Behars bought the former Madico Window Films facility – a total of 91,000 square feet.

But the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, in March 2020, caused several prospective tenants to pull out of their Factory arrangements.

In 2021, Kara Behar appeared before the St. Petersburg City Council to return a pair of Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) grants awarded in 2019, totaling $200,000, in part because the Barley Common brewery collective – which was to be an anchor tenant – abandoned its Factory plans.

“We wanted to explain to City Council that their trust and belief meant more than the money,” Behar said at the time. “And through a lot of hard work, we were able to make ends meet without the grant … and that we recognize South St. Pete has far greater needs. We want to see that those funds are put to better uses.”

Part of The Factory is home to artist studios, and over the past months has become a weekend concert venue, with live music and DJs on its back patio, although much of the space remains empty.

The offices of Keep St. Pete Lit are inside The Factory, although the SHINE Mural Festival left the facility earlier this year.

The main attraction was, and is, Fairgrounds, Dimmitt’s 12,000-squre-foot exhibition space, which was partially funded through a nearly $3 million donation from philanthropists Jeff and Penny Vinik.

The South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area Commercial Revitalization Program gave Fairgrounds a $100,000 kick-start grant in spring 2019.

For now, the fate of The Factory St. Pete remains a mystery.

This is a developing story. It has been modified from its original version.

 

 

 

 

 

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