Wednesday, Sep 17, 2014
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St. Pete shopping center offers upscale boutiques, restaurants


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— Bill Edwards says he got everything he hoped for in the 18 national, regional and local tenants that have signed on at his Sundial shopping center, which is about 90 percent leased.

There are well-established names such as Ruth’s Chris Steak, Tommy Bahama and Chico’s, alongside posh but lesser-known clothing boutiques like Manhattan-based L.O.L. Kids.

Residents may shop at the European culinary market Locale, run by celebrated chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona, or eat fresh fish dishes that have made Sea Salt a favorite among foodies in Naples.

Men can get a shave and a local craft beer at The Shave Cave, while women enjoy spa treatment at the Marilyn Monroe Glamour Room.

Most of the shops and restaurants at Edwards’ upscale retail plaza at 153 Second Ave. N. will open by September, with a few waiting until November, the developer told a group of media, city officials and business leaders Thursday.

After a series of individual tenant announcements in the past few months, the Edwards Group this week released a definitive list, ending more than a year of speculation about the future of the renovated outdoor complex.

The list includes an assortment of local small businesses, big brands and a few regional names that are making their debut in the Tampa Bay area at Sundial.

“Just about everything on my wish list has been satisfied,” said Edwards, who made his fortune as the owner of Mortgage Investors Corp. before moving into the development arena.

“We needed national accounts, I wanted that for sure, but I also wanted to mix it with some good local tenants, because there are some great local stores that I shop in.”

Asked whether he was disappointed at not bringing in major brands such as J. Crew or an Apple Store, Edwards said he thought Sundial has everything it needs to be a world-class shopping destination.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and several area business leaders also praised the lineup.

“We are on the map on a global stage here,” said Chris Steinocher, president of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

St. Petersburg was not on the map at first for many of the retailers the Edwards Group coaxed into coming.

Orlando and Miami were among the cities on Chef Fabrizio Aielli’s list of possible new locations for his well-reviewed fresh seafood restaurant Sea Salt.

When he emigrated from Italy to the United States decades ago, Aielli spent a few years in Tampa and said there was “nothing” in downtown St. Petersburg at that time.

After a more recent visit, he found a different city.

“We arrived here, we parked the car after 30 seconds, I looked at my wife and she looked at me and she said, Fabrizio, I love St. Pete,” Aielli said.

Niki Bryan said St. Petersburg wasn’t on her list, either, as she looked to add to her Marilyn Monroe spa chain, which has locations in New York City, Miami, Orlando and Maui.

“St. Petersburg is a very unique and special community and, if I can be very candid, probably was not a dot on our map two years ago when we created Marilyn Monroe Spa brand,” she said.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker had the job of introducing many of these tenants to the now bustling downtown in his current role as president of the Edwards Group.

Seeing the momentum of new apartments and condominiums going up across town, and the wave of people moving in, convinced many of them to sign leases, Baker said.

That’s why Edwards is confident his Sundial will succeed where the former BayWalk shopping center failed.

“This shopping center was built before its time. We hadn’t built a downtown,” Edwards said of BayWalk, which he bought in 2011 for about $5 million.

“This is something that meets up to the needs of today. This isn’t something where I’m hoping people are going to show up. I know they’ll show up. They’re all here.”

Edwards said he has “lost track” of how much money he has invested in renovating the old BayWalk plaza, but it’s “a lot.”

His group has identified one or two more tenants they expect to fill the remaining empty spaces, but gave no indication what they might be.

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