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It's Centro Ybor and vacant Ybor

Many buildings are looking for tenants since the 2000 opening of the Centro Ybor retail and entertainment complex.

By EVE LEBERSON, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 13, 2002

THAT'S LIFE IN THE BIG (YBOR) CITY: This latest epoch of Ybor City, one marked by explosive rejuvenation and contentious redevelopment beginning in the early '90s, has been divided in two.

Pre Centro Ybor, and post.

Upon its October 2000 opening, there was much speculation about how merchants outside the sprawling retail and entertainment complex would fare. The collection of building vacancies on and around Ybor's main strip, Seventh Avenue, tells the tale. Restaurant, bar and retail business in Ybor remains active, but risky.

The banner at 1533 E Seventh Ave. declaring that a two-story retail/office building will be "available summer 2002" is now in error. Marchelle LaMaster of Florida Executive Realty says tenants failed to materialize. "But we're still trying," she said.

Another Florida Executive Realty listing, a prime location at 1613 E Seventh Ave. between Full Moon Saloon and Amphitheater, sits idle.

Frankie's Patio at 1920 E Seventh Ave. remains closed, but available for rent, lease with option to buy, or sale. "Serious offers only," a sign in the window warns.

Ybor Square, which converted wholly to office space in 2000, has only a handful of tenants and entire floors available for lease. Across the street, the Old Firehouse building at 1313 E Eighth Ave. sits vacant. John Theofilos of Gulf Atlantic Commercial Realty says there have been "several interested parties" for the 1915 three-story building, but so far no takers.

But life also springs anew in the Latin Quarter.

The Ybor Market, the open air square at the northwest corner of Seventh Avenue and 17th Street, is being redesigned. Property owner Darryl Shaw says the market's vendors "didn't have security, and they didn't have protection from the elements" in the old configuration.

A one-story building with a storefront on Seventh Avenue and three storefronts on 17th will provide shelter for a Subway restaurant, Sharon's Dog House (hot dogs, beverages, ice cream), and a jewelry and tattoo business. Project manager Scott Johnson of Precise Construction says the building should open in five months.

* * *

POP CITY SPORTS NEW LOOK: Three months after closing its Elements nightclub and Bourbon Street Bistro restaurant, the sprawling entertainment center at Channelside will go sports bar.

Video gamers needn't worry. Pop City general manager Paul Bullard says the games are staying, and that $100,000 worth of new ones have been purchased.

But sports bar conversion will be the main focus over the next five weeks. Six big screen TVs and one large projector screen TV will be installed. More seating will be added, the billiards will be remodeled, and local sports memorabilia will be hung on the walls. The pub grub menu will remain.

Among the game room additions: full motion capture simulator games Turret Tower and MOCAP Golf, plus the Golden Tee 2003 Internet golf game, and an all terrain vehicle simulator.

- Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail

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