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Vacant sign ready to come down at plaza

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 5, 2002

TOWN SQUARE LEASES NEAR? Roughly a third of the shopping plaza at the southeast corner of Kennedy and West Shore boulevards remains vacant. But leases may be announced later this month, says Cary Anderson of Regency Centers, which manages Town Square.

The success of the plaza's current tenants -- including Panera Bread, Starbucks Coffee Co. and anchor Pier 1 Imports -- has made Regency choosy about who should lease the three unoccupied units. Anderson said they're leery about adding another restaurant, even though they've been approached by several.

Nothing's final, but Anderson said that leases for a day spa, a women's clothing store and a gourmet market may be announced soon.

Pier 1 moved from 145 S Dale Mabry Highway last November. Its old digs are cushier than ever: a mattress store moved in.

A SHAKE UP: Steak 'n Shake, a South Tampa landmark, closed midnight Tuesday.Regulars, including Plant High students from across the street, had long faces, according to manager Mike Perera. "They're not happy," he said. "But hey, we've got to move along with progress."

Progress means a new and improved Steak 'n Shake will rise from the ashes of the current one. Built in 1965, it's considered small and outdated by the Indianapolis-based company. Steak 'n Shake spokesman Vick Yeandel said the new restaurant will be modeled after the one near Citrus Park Town Center. That means seating capacity will jump from 60 to 97.

The old overhang out back, a relic from the restaurant's curb service days, will not be replaced. But the nostalgic, black-and-white-tiled look will remain.

What's the countdown to Chili Macs and double Steakburgers with fries returning once again to South Dale Mabry? Perera said the opening date is tentatively set for June 17.

HAIL, YE IMPERIAL BOOKLODGE: You don't have to make a noise like a moose or give a secret hand shake to get in.

The Imperial Booklodge at 2202 W Kennedy Blvd., Apt. 2, is, in fact, inviting and cozy. (Especially if you have a soft spot for whatever fledgling bookshop-coffeehouse sustained you with Kafka and Vonnegut and Circus Maximus during your undergrad years.)

Inviting because of the bookshop's affable owner, Ryan DeRamus, a thoughtful theology and classical Greek graduate who can't quite hide his Louisiana accent. Cozy because, well, it's in Apt. 2.

The used bookstore occupies a 600-square-foot unit within a rambling 1930 bungalow. DeRamus has conformed to his setting with antique lamps, furniture (including a sharp copy of a Barcelona chair on loan from television reporter Lance Williams), and Oriental rugs. The addition of used vinyl LPs -- some stacked on the floor, some up on the walls -- almost prompts one to ask when the drum circle will start.

But the lodge is mainly crammed with books. In fact, there's hardly a section in a big new bookstore not represented here. Religion, history, philosophy, science, modern and classic literature, travel, art, and children's shelves can be found among others.

So what's the well-travelled DeRamus' take on Tampa? He thinks the used book market here is underdeveloped. And he can't figure out why he gets more University of South Florida students than those from nearby University of Tampa.

When asked to name the most controversial book in his stock, the former seminary student responds:

"The Bible."

As the sign says, hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to dark.

TOWNHOME MARCH CONTINUES: Apex Builders, creator of the Dekle Condominiums project mentioned here a few weeks ago, plans three more townhome developments in Hyde Park.

Ground will break in four to six weeks for Edison Park, at the southwest corner of Platt Street and Edison Avenue. Eight units in a vague federal style (think old Georgetown) will each have three bedrooms, 21/2 baths, a two-car garages, granite countertops and 1,500 square feet of living space. They start at $259,000.

Same notation for Edison Garden, which will be on southeast corner of Platt and Edison, and will start at $279,000. Apex agent Suellen Cannella says that completion is set for early fall, and that more than half of the units have sold.

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