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Ballast Point

Walgreens considering Gandy Square location

Tenants at the shopping center say a deal's on the horizon, but the drugstore chain is keeping its plans quiet.

By SHARI MISSMAN MILLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 7, 2003


Walgreens may be headed to another South Tampa corner.

For the second time in two years, the drugstore chain is eyeing the Gandy Square Shopping Center at MacDill Avenue and W Gandy Boulevard.

Their initial deal to build a store at the location fell through, and CVS snatched the corner across the street.

Now Walgreens is reconsidering.

Rodney Lopez, owner of Uncle Rodney's Rib House, said he and other tenants in the small strip center have been told they might have to leave.

Jay Cox, the property manager, confirmed that the plaza owner is negotiating with Walgreens but wouldn't give details. He said Walgreens typically lets a developer handle the preliminary work, including trying to get other big-name tenants.

So far, a Starbucks has surfaced as a possibility, although a Starbucks spokeswoman said she had no information about a store opening at Gandy Square. Walgreens would not confirm the Gandy location, either, but tenants have been talking about the plans for months. They suspect the new store would replace the outdated Walgreens in nearby Britton Plaza.

D.J. Mistry, owner of Gandy Square Laundromat and Dry Cleaning, hates the uncertainty. He said Passmore & Cox, the management company working for the plaza owners, renewed his lease for an additional seven years without mentioning the possibility that he might have to move.

Jack Caramello, owner of Gumby's Pizza and Grinders, said he won't go without a fight.

It's wrong, he says, for the management company to lease space to new tenants, despite the pending sale of the property to Walgreens.

Cox said he leased space only before he was notified of the possible sale. "I leased in good faith," he said. "Whoever buys the property has to honor the current leases."

Tenants said a deal appears imminent. Caramello and Lopez said they have seen survey crews taking measurements, placing stakes in the ground and getting soil samples.

"When I see a man out with the wheel, measuring, I know something is up," Lopez said.

The shopping center owners, Joyti and Darshan S. Jutla, of Des Plaines, Ill., have told Cox that they should have a definite plan by September or October.

First, the City Council must approve a plan to build a drive-through pharmacy. The developer also must agree to protect the large tree on the site. No date has been set.

-- Shari Missman Miller can be reached at 226-3374 or at smiller@sptimes.com.

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