In October 2018, Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City of St. Petersburg broke ground on two long-awaited projects in Commerce Park, a city-owned property that runs along the Deuces Live and the Warehouse Arts District. Now, just seven months after the celebrated groundbreaking, the Commerce Park projects appear to be in jeopardy.
In a report to City Council Thursday morning, City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle acknowledged that the Commerce Park projects, which were slated to be finished last month, had stopped in their tracks just after the groundbreaking ceremonies, around the same time each site was issued foundation permits.
After an extensive planning and RFP process, and approval of agreements in 2016, city officials celebrated welcoming EMP Industries and Euro Cycle’s transformative development projects to the 14-acre property west of 22nd Street South to 26th Street South, from about 6thAvenue South to the boundary of Interstate 275.
The two projects were slated to bring dozens of jobs to the economically challenged area. EMP Industries, a marine manufacturing company, was expected to create a facility to house a cluster of marine industry companies, including Marinetek, which is already located in St. Petersburg’s Warehouse Arts District. The proposal was projected to create 65 initial jobs, with more expected over time. At least 17 of those initial jobs were supposed to go to residents of the South St. Petersburg CRA.
Three large buildings were to be constructed on the site, two 33,000 square foot commercial sites and one mixed-use residential site. EMP’s CEO Tom Callahan had negotiated an amendment to the initial agreement with the City in November, to separate the residential agreement from the commercial, giving themselves an extra year from the May 2019 date for the completion of the residential building.
Now, the City will look to renegotiate the agreement with EMP, as the developers reached out for more time to complete the project. DeLisle said they would be looking to finish construction of the first building, located at 7th Avenue South and 25th St. South, at the end of 2019, and the second building in Spring of 2020. DeLisle said he would bring forward a new agreement with EMP in July or August, with certain benchmark deadlines for permitting that would permit severability of the contract if not met.
According to DeLisle, the City of St. Petersburg has had no contact with Euro Cycle, a motorcycle sales and repair company, for months, despite outreach efforts by the city. Due to the lack of communication, the city sent a termination of agreement, known as a mutual release of interest, on May 31.
Multiple members of Council expressed concerns over the progress of the project.
Council member Steve Kornell drew parallels to similar situations in which the city had lease projects default, including Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food Restaurant, located across the street from the Commerce Park project site on the historic Deuces Live, as well as a proposed gas station, convenience store, restaurant and medical building near Perkins Elementary School that was terminated in 2018.
“I just don’t want it to be 2020 and still be in the same place,” said Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, expressing concern over the lack of progress and permitting on the project.
Council member Gina Driscoll pushed DeLisle on a firm deadline for a renegotiated agreement with the developers. “I would like to see a firm deadline, that usually makes things happen.”