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Goodbye to a landmark: Dew drops in 2 weeks

With apartments and condos rising downtown, Dew Cadillac gives way to a Publix, to be done around the new year.

By SHARON L. BOND, Neighborhood Times Business Editor
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 9, 2003

ST. PETERSBURG -- The bulldozer blade will push into the main building of the former Dew Cadillac site downtown on or about Feb. 24, said Craig Sher, president and chief executive officer of Sembler Corp.

Sembler bought the Dew site at 224 Third St. S to build a Publix grocery store. The historic car dealership, a downtown fixture for 80-plus years, moved to a new location on Gandy Boulevard late last year.

It will take up to 60 days to clear the site of the two buildings and parking lots and then about eight months to build the grocery store, Sher said. At 28,000 square feet, the grocery will be one of Publix's smaller stores.

Opening date will be late 2003 or early 2004, Sher said.

The Publix will be part of a shopping center called University Village that Sembler is building on the Dew site. An Eckerd drugstore is part of the project, which will total $13-million.

Sher says this deal is different for Sembler, which does a lot of shopping center/Publix construction.

"There is more pride, satisfaction and emotion because it is our home town," Sher wrote in a recent e-mail. "Similar to BayWalk, but on a lesser level, we view this as another "present' to St. Petersburg -- our relatively small effort to help the city be a better place to live."

BayWalk is the $40-million entertainment/retail shopping center Sembler built downtown. It opened in 2000 and has a 20-screen Muvico theater plus various restaurants and shops. It has been a draw for downtown.

Sher would not reveal what Sembler paid for the Dew site. The sale is not yet recorded in the Pinellas County Property Appraisers Office. In late 2001, Dimmitt Cadillac of Clearwater paid $4.5-million for Dew Cadillac. The plan then was to leave Dew downtown and renovate and update the property. Later, Dimmitt decided to sell.

Richard Dimmitt, owner of the dealerships, said late last year that car sales probably were not the best use of property in a downtown that is in the midst of a renaissance.

The plan to build the grocery was on, then off, then on again.

"It was revived because of everyone's effort to not let the project die. We as developer, Publix as the anchor tenant, the city's desire for this to happen and land sellers' cooperation were all important factors in getting to this point."

Downtown's continued revival is in part because of the number of condominiums and apartments that have been built in the past five years. As more people move in, there is more demand for services such as a grocery. The new Publix will be within walking distance of several of the new high rises.

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