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Owner of future food hall shares plans, and how New York has inspired her

Veronica Brezina

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Central Park St. Pete Food Hall. Rendering provided by Central Park St. Pete Food Hall.

The old Woolworth building at 551 Central Ave. in downtown St. Pete will become the site of a new food hall. 

The Hi Hospitality Group tossed dirt at the site Monday to mark the start of demolition of the building – former site of the Dome Grill – and construction for the new Central Park St. Pete dining establishment.

The three-story food hall is described as a “one-of-its-kind food hall in Florida, integrating incredible dining concepts with service, technology of the future and stunning interior design.” 

“We want to create a space that is really special and gives a nod to New York with some to industrial designs and areas that have a prohibition vibe,” Natalia Levey, a chef and owner of Hi Hospitality Group, told the St. Pete Catalyst.

The group plans to save the bricks from the building after it is demolished to incorporate it into the new facade. The structure will also have a rooftop that will be partially enclosed and an open area with trees and greenery that Levey says will mimic Central Park in New York. 

Levey, the founder of Hi Hospitality, is originally from Russia and has lived in New York. 

“I went to a culinary school in New York [at the Art Institute of New York] and I’d go to Central Park all the time. It’s where my husband proposed to me. It’s a very special place and this project is going to be located on Central Avenue. I just felt the name fits,” she said. 

The conversations about the food hall ignited around 2018 and became clearer over time. 

“We traveled before the pandemic and saw the need for St. Pete to have a place where people can meet,” Levey said. 

The 24,000-square-foot food hall will have tiered areas for events and meetings to occur. 

While the $15 million food hall development will not be completed until the end of 2022, several restaurants have already made commitments to have a presence there. 

The tenants will include the Italian seafood restaurant Speaks Clam Bar and the Asian eatery Kojo, both of which are owned by Hi Hospitality Group. 

Kojo, which has dishes such as crispy nori sushi tacos, garlic ponzu grilled Gulf oysters and kimchi fried rice, will be located on the rooftop. Kojo has an existing location in Sarasota.

This will also be Speaks Clam Bar’s third location. 

Additionally, a high-end speakeasy bar will be constructed in the basement. 

Levey couldn’t disclose further information on the other potential tenants but said she would love to see diversity and perhaps some restaurants that carry a European influence. 

The development team includes Tampa-based InVision Advisors, the owner’s representative firm specializing in managing the design and construction; Behar and Peteranecz Architecture, a 30-person architectural firm headquartered in St Petersburg; Barr and Barr, which are construction managers; and  SA, a global firm specializing in hospitality design and consulting for food and beverage operations.

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    Rita Sewell

    November 16, 2021at4:52 pm

    As the establishments on Central continue to blossom perhaps in the future it should be car free on the weekends. Perhaps 8 am to 10 pm. The huge lot at Tropicana could provide parking for Grand Central and patrons can park in city lots and access scooters, bikes and busses on the First Avenue legs. Make Central Human. There will never be adequate parking for everyones needs and the diagonal parking is a hazard to all.

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