The Factory, the 6.5-acre arts complex co-owned by Kara and Jordan Behar and the Dimmitt family in the Warehouse Arts District, was announced with much fanfare in 2019.
And the work continues. Several of the former warehouses on the 91,000-square-foot property have been completely renovated are either open for business, or about to be: There are artist studios and galleries, four key nonprofits work out of Factory offices, and Daddy Kool Records will officially re-locate to the facility the weekend of June 18.
Due soon is the grand opening of the interactive arts installation Fairgrounds.
The proposed layout of The Factory – also known as The Factory St. Pete – has changed somewhat since those early days. Covid-19, for example, scrambled more than a few business plans.
Thursday morning, 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.
One, she said, was earmarked for the development of a brewery on the western edge of the site. “We’re in the middle of the Warehouse Arts District – we’re not short on breweries, distilleries or any other area that needs alcohol,” she told the council.
The Barley Common brewery collective backed out of a commitment to move into the space when the pandemic arrived. “Pivot, change, pivot, change,” Behar told the Catalyst in December 2020. “Bob and weave. You just shift. As the world changes, you change.”
The not-a-brewery was transformed into an arts fabrication site. Sixty-two artists were employed in that building during the pandemic’s high tide, Behar proudly told the council.
The SHINE Mural Festival, Pinellas Community Foundation, Keep St. Pete Lit and the St. Petersburg Strategic Partnership for the Arts have operated out of The Factory since December.
For the office and studio building, Behar said, “We did not need a permit, therefore we did not need the grant. So we wanted to return them to you formally.”
Reached by phone later in the morning, Behar expounded on her public statements.
“We wanted to explain to City Council that their trust and belief meant more than the money,” she said. “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.”