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It takes a village to woo a tenant

On Tuesday, Hyde Park denizens are urged, hurry up and look natural. And it sure wouldn't hurt to be seen reading.

By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002


HYDE PARK -- Think of it as being an extra in a movie.

Or putting flowers out for company.

Old Hyde Park Village is courting a client -- apparently a large bookstore -- to move into space left vacant by Jacobson's.

On Tuesday, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the client plans to visit the location.

So, in an e-mail quietly circulating among Hyde Park residents, village general manager Pat Westerhouse asked for help.

Come shop, she wrote, alluding to Tuesday's "very important visit."

Come dine. Linger at the coffee shop. Try to look like you live here.

"Suffice it to say, it would be helpful if some of the neighbors were reading books, magazines, newspapers, etc.," Westerhouse wrote.

Rumors abound that the site may be slated for a Borders or a Barnes & Noble, and that the nearby movie theaters, challenged by a leap in local screens, could eventually fall to a grocery store.

The 50,000-square-foot Jacobson's site stirs curiosity because it is the cornerstone of Hyde Park's central business district.

Westerhouse wouldn't comment on the rumors.

But Robert Weeks, owner of the Tarpon Bay Trading Co. on Snow Circle, said village managers confirmed they were looking at a major bookstore.

It would be a year in coming, he said.

"I think a Borders would do fantastic because it's got music," Weeks said.

Ann Binkley, spokeswoman for Borders, said the company doesn't discuss deals until a lease is signed.

"As of right now, we don't have anything slated," she said Wednesday.

A Barnes & Noble spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Westerhouse's e-mail said that Tuesday's trip would be "the last of several visits from this retailer and they will be making a final decision on whether or not to pursue discussions based upon this visit."

The e-mail found its way to Hyde Park Preservation Inc. and the Historic Hyde Park Neighbors Association, two groups that represent Hyde Park homeowners. Then members forwarded the e-mail to friends and neighbors.

"We have been informed by the village there are tenants that are interested in the property," said Anna Thomas of Hyde Park Preservation Inc.

"They did ask for support from the neighborhood, because they want to get this client, whoever it is," said Jeannie Holton Carufel of the Historic Hyde Park Neighbors Association.

"Originally, I heard Fresh Market, which sounded good," Carufel said, "but this made it sound like it would be a bookstore like Borders. I'd love to have a bookstore."

Old Hyde Park Village once supported a Doubleday store. When Barnes & Noble bought out Doubleday, the Hyde Park store closed.

Carufel said she forwarded Westerhouse's e-mail to neighbors to encourage participation.

"I have heard response from people who think it would be great to support them because they support us," she said.

Westerhouse was happy to see the interest.

"The neighbors are all rallying around us," she said. "We're very pleased to have their support."

-- Reporter Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or pryan@sptimes.com.

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