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St. Petersburg requests proposals for downtown

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City of St. Petersburg requests proposals for two downtown sites

Jane Meinhardt

Staff writer

ST. PETERSBURG -- One of the few remaining complete blocks available in downtown St. Petersburg is for sale for mixed-use development.

The City of St. Petersburg issued a request for proposals for the purchase and redevelopment of property known as the former Maas Brothers department store, now occupied by the Florida International Museum.

Ron Barton, the city's economic development director, would not speculate on a purchase price because an appraisal has not been completed.

However, Progress Energy proposed a deal with the city in June to pay $1.5 million for part of the block and wants to construct an office tower. The building would have more than 200,000 square feet of office space, some retail space and parking.

The utility's Pinellas County operations would be consolidated in the building. Progress Energy projected the consolidation would add 200 employees to downtown, Barton said.

"They would be increasing employment and would obviously have a long-term presence in downtown," he said. "All these factors weigh into the evaluation of proposals. We're juggling Progress Energy's proposal and trying to see what the market wants."

The city has agreed to assist the financially ailing museum's attempt to find a temporary location. The attraction has been unable to keep up with rent payments.

The city issued its request for proposals for the museum property in June. Proposals must be submitted by Monday.

The property includes 30,000 square feet on the northwest corner of First Avenue North and Second Street and about 50,000 square feet on the northeast corner of First Avenue North and Third Street.

Proposals for redevelopment of either parcel or both are being sought.

The city prefers that a minimum of 180,000 square feet of Class A office space be included as a component of a development proposal for the northwest corner site.

A "successful" proposal for the property must be for a development that will provide -- at a minimum -- first floor pedestrian retail, at least 180,000 square feet of new development in addition to the first floor retail, and a commitment to complete the project within 30 months from the date of city council approval, according to the request.

For the northeast corner, the city wants a facility with first floor retail space, a minimum of 200,000 square feet of mixed-use development in addition to the first floor, parking integrated into the building and a commitment to complete the project within 48 months from the date of council approval.

"The location of the property is critical," Barton said. "It is a significant link on the east side of the city to investment already occurring and brings private investment to the area of Williams Park. It really represents almost ground zero downtown."

Christopher Leonard, office and industrial specialist at Colliers Arnold, predicted the request for proposals would "get some action," particularly because the city wants a mixed-use development.

"That's a trend that's been successful elsewhere," he said. "Mixed-use can be very creative and flexible. It draws from a large group (of developers) and caters to diversity."

Many mixed-use developments are incorporating a residential component, Leonard said. Reasonably priced units -- in the $175,000 to $250,000 range -- would be viable as part of such a St. Petersburg project, Leonard said.

He would not suggest a potential price for the property because of numerous variables, such as the density that would be allowed. Also, land prices continue to escalate so it is difficult to base price on previous sales history, he said.

"This is not just a straight sale," Leonard said. "It's a package. If the city wants to work with developers, that makes it more valuable."

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