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Publix heads list for Village tenants

The grocery is one possibility when the AMC theater departs.

By SUSAN THURSTON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 2, 2002


HYDE PARK -- First came the rumors about what would fill the former Jacobson's in Old Hyde Park Village.

Some said a gourmet grocery store. Next, a bookstore.

Now float the rumors about the movie theaters.

Publix has surfaced as a likely tenant to move into the AMC Hyde Park 7 after the movie company's lease expires next year. Village officials won't confirm, but some business owners say the word is out.

"They've thrown around Publix, but they aren't going to tell us anything before they have a deal," said Mike Shimberg, owner of the Cactus Club.

The Tex-Mex restaurant signed a one-year lease last month but hesitated to extend for longer. Sales dropped after the WestShore Plaza theaters opened. Sept. 11 made things worse.

A Publix would draw more people to the village, but not necessarily boost business, Shimberg said. Customers can't take a leisurely lunch if they have ice cream melting in their trunk.

"Something is better than nothing, but there just seems to be an awful lot of Publixes within a 5-mile radius," he said.

Publix has stores on Bayshore Boulevard and Dale Mabry Highway. Kash 'N Karry has one on Swann within walking distance of the village.

Publix officials would neither confirm nor deny interest in Hyde Park.

South Tampa real estate agent Kevin Platt said another grocery store could benefit the community, provided it meets local requirements. Platt, the agent for the future SoHo Pointe at nearby Swann and Howard avenues, first heard of the Publix proposal a few weeks ago.

"I think it would certainly breathe some new life into Hyde Park Village and create a new destination in that corridor," he said. "They've got to do something."

Before anything takes over, the village must change the zoning. The city restricted the site to a movie theater in the mid-1980s based on concerns from neighbors about noise and traffic.

At the time, neighbors opposed high-use businesses, including a grocery store, that might clog streets and attract crime. One public meeting drew hundreds of people to the Curtis Hixon Convention Center and lasted until 3 a.m.

Community leaders had mixed feelings about a Publix.

"Something like a grocery store is going to bring more people to the neighborhood, and the infrastructure is not there," said Jeanne Holton Carufel, president of the Historic Hyde Park Neighbors Association.

Personally, she prefers smaller, unique businesses to complement the village's upscale feel.

Still, she'd like to hear more about the plans and the details of the rezoning. She considers the village a good neighbor.

Village officials have scheduled two community meetings to discuss rezoning and answer questions. The first is set for 7 p.m. Monday at the Jacobson's store; the second at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the same location.

General manager Pat Westerhouse said rezoning the site would give the shopping center more flexibility when negotiating with prospective tenants.

The rezoning would affect the Jacobson's and AMC locations, plus seven lots behind the theaters that the village plans to buy for parking, she said.

The city's Historic Preservation Commission takes up the matter Sept. 9, before a Sept. 22 date with City Council, Westerhouse said. If successful, the village could sign one or more tenants by late September or October.

Harvey Petty, president of Hyde Park Preservation Inc., said he expects a large turnout at the community meetings. Many people are curious about the village's plans.

Petty had not heard of the Publix proposal but said he hates to see vacant space.

"Anything that will get extra business in here is good for the community," he said.

The owner of the village, Madison Marquette, hoped to fill some of the Jacobson's space by the December holiday rush, but pushed it back because of the zoning issue. Officials have said two businesses will move into the 50,000-square-foot corner spot.

Fresh Market, Crate & Barrel and a national bookstore, such as Barnes & Noble, emerged as possibilities.

Lee Schwartz, who ran the Simon Schwartz Supermarket on MacDill Avenue with his father, also has considered opening a specialty foods store at the village. He ruled out Jacobson's because of the limited parking, but has not ruled out the theater site.

-- Times researched John Martin contributed to this report. Susan Thurston can be reached at 226-3394 or thurston@sptimes.com.

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