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Channel District

Old retail hub will make way for new

Several shops that have become South Tampa traditions will move as developers rebuild a prime retail spot.

By SHARI MISSMAN MILLER and SUSAN THURSTON
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 21, 2003


PALMA CEIA WEST -- For Nancy Hankin, the search for scrumptious sweets stops at Kalupa's Bakery on Neptune Street. She loves the cakes. Her mother swears by the petit fours.

A South Tampa resident for more than 30 years, Hankin has shopped at the bakery since it opened in 1979.

"They are a tradition," she said. "At any family celebration, there is always something from Kalupa's."

Soon, she and other loyal customers will have to drive elsewhere for Kalupa's divine desserts.

The building is slated for demolition to make way for SouthTown Center, a new retail development at Neptune and Dale Mabry Highway. It will replace one of South Tampa's oldest retail hubs, a corner long synonymous with Consuelo's margaritas and Bertha's protein shakes.

Capstone McCann bought the bakery building and others near Publix in July with the intent of installing modern, high-end retail space.

The prime location fetched top dollar: $5.4-million for 3.7 acres.

"It's right in the middle of everything that goes on in South Tampa," said Jim Burt, president of the Capstone Group, which is developing the property. "It's ground zero for South Tampa."

The project creates uncertainty for the existing businesses, some of which have been at the location since the '70s. Capstone told tenants they can rent space in the new complex, but at a higher rate. And those who decide to stay will have to relocate for several months during the construction.

Mike Kalupa doesn't plan to stick around. He hasn't heard much about the project and doesn't know what his rent would be. But a move, he figures, might be good.

"It is going to give us the chance to do things that we don't have the space to do here, like update our equipment," said Kalupa, who promises to stay in South Tampa.

Capstone's project calls for renovating two buildings and constructing two others. The total retail space would remain about 45,000 square feet, but the developer would add parking in front of and behind the stores.

Capstone wants a mix of local and national stores, and some offices. The higher rent will likely force most businesses to leave.

"We would love to accommodate all of the existing tenants, but in reality that's not going to happen," Burt said.

Light Bulbs Unlimited hopes to relocate on Dale Mabry when its lease is up in July. Capstone officials have said they would double the company's rent if it stayed, said store president Craig Chalmers.

"We can go anywhere and we'll do fine," he said.

Still, Chalmers sees the changes as a bittersweet sign of the times in South Tampa.

"That's what money does. Buys new stuff. What can you do?" he said. "The buildings will look nice and it will upgrade the area. Jim Burt does a nice job."

Burt has a long track record in Tampa. He and former business partner Mike Hogan developed Channelside; Burt's father built Old Hyde Park Village. The younger Burt formed the Capstone Group in 1999.

Capstone intends to submit site drawings to the city in the next 30 to 45 days, Burt said. Although the property already is zoned for retail, the developer needs construction permits to proceed.

The permit process will take at least four to six months, said Kit Alexander, the city's commercial site review supervisor. The developer will not have to ask City Council for approval unless it wants a variance, she said.

In the meantime, several tenants are plotting their next move.

Little Peeps on Dale Mabry will head south on Dale Mabry. Bertha's Nutrition Shoppes, a mainstay on Neptune since the late '70s, hopes to stay, but in a smaller space.

"We're supposed to have a slot in the new building," said Lori Bailey, one of the managers. "I think it's going to be pretty."

Gina Fernandez, co-owner of the Scrapbook Shoppe on Neptune at the corner of Church Avenue, expects to move by July 31, but reluctantly. Capstone hasn't told her much about the project, except that her rent could triple, she said.

"This is where I opened and where I wanted to stay," she said.

Mel Zack, president of the new Palma Ceia West Neighborhood Association, said he welcomed the improvements but worried about the truck traffic during construction.

-- Staff writer Ron Matus contributed to this report.

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