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New owner to update Plaza shops and tower

The Kalyvas Group LLC will make cosmetic changes and hopes to fill vacancies at the complex.

By SHARON L. BOND, Neighborhood Times Business Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Plaza Tower and Courtyard Shops, viewed as a spark for downtown renewal in the 1970s, changed owners at the end of the year and will be getting some cosmetic work.

"There will be an updating of the property. We want to bring it back to a Class A, top property," said Brian Williamson of Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc.

Williamson identified the buyers as the Kalyvas Group LLC, made up of several members of the Kalyvas family who live in central Pinellas. He said they bought Plaza Tower at 111 Second Ave. NE as an investment. They do not plan any tenant changes except to fill vacancies. Republic Bank is the anchor tenant.

Williamson would not reveal the sales price. The last sale recorded in Pinellas County property records was in November 1985 for $13.6-million. The Kalyvas Group bought the 23-year-old office tower, which has 15 stories, a four-level garage and shops from Transcontinental Plaza Inc., which is part of a Real Estate Investment Trust in Dallas. The sale was completed Dec. 31. Transcontinental had the building for sale for a couple of years, according to Williamson.

Williamson said Rutenberg Realty will handle leasing. Available now is the top floor of the building, which is a little more than 11,000 square feet and would lease for $18 per square foot per year. That could include a company name on the building, he said.

The Plaza's opening in November 1979 was a big event in downtown St. Petersburg, complete with theatrical troupes, a medicine show and choral groups, according to Times files. It was a $15-million project that was anticipated for several years while under construction. Many looked to it to be a catalyst for reinvigorating downtown. It was unique for the time with its European-style courtyard with small retail shops.

The 15 shops now in the courtyard include the Daily Grind coffee shop, Patchington and two shops under the Shandra name, one featuring accessories and clothes and the other shoes. Boutiques include Green and Yellow Basket and Amazon's River.

A few years before the Plaza opened, downtown got its first high-rise condominium, the 29-story Bayfront Tower. The 1975 project features a rooftop swimming pool, running track and gym. Current purchase prices for the average 2,000 square foot condos are in the $450,000 range.

But those two large projects were not enough to reinvigorate downtown. In fact, the downturn deepened.

Restoration and reopening of the historic Vinoy hotel, now the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, in 1992 began a resurgence that eventually included three luxury high-rise condominium projects and BayWalk, an entertainment/retail center. Luxury apartments also were completed along with several smaller condominium projects. Soon, construction begins on a downtown grocery.

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