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Inside the deal: Buyer outlines his plans for Sundial

Veronica Brezina

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A yoga class at the Sundial. Image from Sundial. Instagram.

The Sundial entertainment and retail center in downtown St. Petersburg will be sold this month to a local developer.

Safety Harbor-based Paradise Ventures is under contract to buy the shopping center at 153 2nd Ave. N. on Feb. 17th in a roughly $27.5 million deal, Paradise CEO and President Michael Connor told the St. Pete Catalyst

St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards has owned the 85,357-square-foot shopping center since 2011, and has been approached by multiple parties over the years offering to purchase it. 

“I knew Bill attempted to sell it before and I wasn’t contemplating buying it until I got a call on a Thursday night,” Connor said. The call came several months ago, and that’s when Connor learned Edwards was ready to sell. 

“He [Edwards] and I talked, and I assured him I was absolutely serious about closing on it. I had just sold our parking garage on Clearwater Beach,” Connor said. 

He and Edwards came to terms on the deal that evening. The following day, Connor signed a letter of intent.

Under the agreement, Paradise Ventures will pay all closing costs and other fees. 

A rendering of the Sundial. Photo credit: City of St. Petersburg

Connor briefly pondered the concept of redeveloping the site once the deal closes, but he is envisioning a different future for the center. 

“I thought about [redeveloping] it for sure. After spending a lot of time there and digesting it, I feel like this still has legs. I do retail development and there’s not a great central location in downtown St. Pete. This could be the beginning of that, and we could hopefully get the pieces around it and create more of a central destination,” he said. “There’s more density coming in and we want to create a magnet.” 

Today, the shopping center’s tenants include Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, Chico’s, White House Black Market, Tommy Bahama, Diamonds Direct and the Man Cave barbershop, according to the Sundial’s website. 

There are several large vacancies, including the spaces formerly occupied by FarmTable Kitchen and Locale Market. 

In 2019, a 25,000-square-foot food hall dubbed the St. Pete Market Hall was announced for the Sundial; however, a lawsuit was filed between Edwards’ Loan Ranger Acquisitions and St. Pete Market Hall and BE-1 Concepts, the group behind the Armature Works food hall in Tampa that was planning to develop the food hall.

Edwards said in the complaint that the St. Pete Market Hall group was trying to buy Sundial from Loan Ranger at a steep discount. St. Pete Market Hall’s lease contained a purchase option that allowed St. Pete Market Hall to buy Sundial for $32 million. 

After the lawsuit ignited, entities linked to the proposed food hall at Sundial filed for bankruptcy – thus, killing off the food hall plans. 

“There are a lot of vacancies because when the Armature Works deal fell apart, the restaurants were shut down and the tenants moved around,” Connor said. 

“Our intention is to bring new restaurant concepts and really open it up. In the post-Covid world, we learned how outside dining is critical. The advantage of the Sundial purchase is I am buying everything up to the doors of the AMC theater,” he said. “We want to activate that walkway that’s dead right now.” 

He noted how tenants in Tampa’s prestigious Hyde Park shopping center could potentially relocate to the Sundial. 

He also added how there is an 8,000-square-foot space by Ruth’s Chris that has sat dormant for years. Connor plans to breathe new life into it by converting the empty shell into spec office space. 

“I spoke with real estate agents and they said the bigger office users are circling St. Pete and need 30,000 or 40,000 square feet, but that’s not going to be available for another two or three years. If I could get it ready, they could have office space for now and it will drive traffic for the retailers,” Connor said. 

“Hopefully we can create more amenities. An upstairs fitness center near the office would be great and downstairs it would all be retail-driven and we’d have restaurant space where Locale was,” he said. 

Edwards has actively been communicating with Connor about the plans. 

The next step for the Sundial purchase is a transfer of rights. 

On Feb. 10, the St. Petersburg City Council will review an item on amending the city’s parking agreement with Loan Ranger. The council will discuss transferring the employee parking and the pedestrian corridor to the new owner.  

Meanwhile, Edwards would continue to be responsible for the security of the Sundial Garage. 

Although the Sundial purchase will be a significant purchase for Paradise Ventures, it will not be its first nor last investment in the city. 

Paradise Ventures owns the 695 Central building, which it bought in late 2019 and renovated. 

Connor said they have letters of intent from two retail tenants for the first floor, and one for the second floor. 

Most recently, Paradise Ventures filed plans to renovate a former Regions Bank in St. Pete. Connor said the firm bought the space and will uproot its corporate office from Safety Harbor, and plant its headquarters in the building. 

The existing Safety Harbor office is under contract to be sold. 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    diana sander

    February 1, 2022at6:51 pm

    Please rescue our beautiful city center. It should be the crowning jewel not the oversight. I miss Locale and the restaurant. More PopUp performances, outdoor concerts and maybe a garden show. The walkway from the garage to the Sundial is beautiful but also overlooked. It’s a great spot for Artists… plein-air painting, live art or again garden designing. I have seen it go through the stages of great hope/great pain to hope and vision to stumbling blocks and the business decline of Covid with it’s perils. I hope this renaissance has the magic it needs.

  2. Avatar

    Nina Toth

    February 2, 2022at7:07 am

    I agree with Diana. We miss our popup performances; local artist and the community Local Market used to bring.

  3. Avatar

    Natalie Stockard

    February 2, 2022at8:07 am

    Please bring in some type of market

  4. Avatar

    Cindy LaValle

    February 2, 2022at6:03 pm

    Is Sea Salt a Sundial asset? Love that place!

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