ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — On Thursday evening, the St. Petersburg City Council approved rezoning the Coquina Key Plaza on 6th Street South to pave the way for a redevelopment project that may bring a grocery store to an area of the city considered a food desert.
What You Need To Know
- St. Petersburg City Council approved rezoning the Coquina Key Plaza to pave the way for a redevelopment project
- Developer Stoneweg said the project will include at least 20,000 sq. ft. of retail space and up to 465 apartments
- A development agreement also approved by the council requires Stoneweg to make an effort to include “a source of fresh food” as one of its retail tenants
- Two dozen neighbors spoke out against the project, citing concerns about density, building height, and that it doesn’t provide enough space for the grocery and pharmacy the neighborhood needs
“Six-point-one square miles in zip code 33705, which is my zip code, and there are no grocery stores within a mile of that zip code,” said Walter Borden, president of the Bahama Shores Neighborhood Association.
Developer Stoneweg US, LLC said re-development of the 14.52-acre site will include a minimum of 20,000 sq. ft. of retail space and no more than 465 apartment units, about 20% of which would be workforce housing.
Neighbors are not happy about this plan. The council heard from about two dozen speakers who say this area of south St. Pete is a food desert and desperately needs a grocery store. They say 20,000 sq. ft. isn’t enough space for the full service store needed. @BN9 #bn9pinellas pic.twitter.com/idVYngG7QV
— Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) October 27, 2022
“Stoneweg US is pleased to have the City Council’s support and excited to be one step closer to building a quality project that will provide much-needed workforce housing and retail to the surrounding neighborhood,” Kyle Parks, a spokesperson for Stoneweg US, said in a statement.
A development agreement also approved by the council includes language that requires Stoneweg to make “commercially reasonable efforts to include a source of fresh food within the Retail Center”. Craig Taraszki, an attorney for the developer, said Stoneweg has a letter of intent from a grocery store, but details are confidential for now. Council was told at the meeting that project officials were talking with that business about occupying about 5,500 square feet of space.
“We’re working towards and iterating those terms to get to the endpoint to sign the lease, but we’re very confident that we can make it happen — either with this tenant or with another one,” Taraszki said.
“I’d be really surprised if they end up having a grocery store there. I would be very surprised. If they do, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. But 5,000 square feet is not a major grocery store,” said Borden.
Borden delivered the opposition to the project during the quasi-judicial proceeding before the council. He asked that the council reject the rezoning plan and that the city provide significant incentives and negotiate adequate space to attract a grocery store and pharmacy to the plaza.
The council also heard from about two dozen neighbors who voiced concerns about density, the potential height of the project, which an administration representative said wouldn’t exceed 77 feet, and what the project would mean for infrastructure.
The council voted 6-1 in favor of rezoning and 6-1 in favor of a development agreement with Stoneweg. It requires the developer to make an effort to get a grocer as a retail tenant. A lawyer for Stoneweg says they have a letter of intent from one – details are confidential. @BN9 pic.twitter.com/oSZcfeUnkj
— Sarah Blazonis (@SarahBlazonis) October 28, 2022
Council Chair Gina Driscoll voted in favor of the rezoning and development agreement. She said she was impressed by the effort made so far to attract a grocery store and told those in attendance that Stoneweg can’t force a store to sign a lease, just as the city can’t force the developer to have specific retailers on site.
Driscoll said it’s been difficult in the past to attract grocery stores to many parts of St. Pete, and that she sees the progress made to this point shows the developer and the city are trying. She also noted the nearly-vacant Coquina Key Plaza was in even more disrepair than it is currently before Stoneweg bought it.
More than one council member said that if they didn’t pave the way for this project to move forward, there’s no telling when or if a grocery store could come to that part of south St. Pete.
Still, neighbors Spectrum Bay News 9 spoke with were skeptical. A number said that letters of intent are non-binding and some questioned if a small store could meet the neighborhood’s needs in the event of a major storm, like Hurricane Ian.
“I’m terribly disappointed,” Borden said.
Borden said neighbors are evaluating their options moving forward. As for the redevelopment, Taraszki said work could begin by spring or summer of 2023.