Not just anyone opens at mall

Published July 5, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - With more than 300 new townhomes as immediate neighbors, Richard Travis is hearing plenty from retailers who want to rent space in the newly completed Royal Palms Center on Fourth Street, a strip mall he built at 50th Avenue N.

"There's a lot of interest," said Travis, adding that the development is proving so attractive that he is turning down possible tenants so he can create the atmosphere he wants.

He said he could be fully rented already, and nearly is, but he's being choosy about who fills the last few spots.

So far, the center is anchored on one end by Talbots women's wear and the other by Johnny Carino's Italian, a restaurant chain opening its first Pinellas edition.

Other notable entries are Vino 100, a shop aiming to demystify the wine-buying experience, and Massage Envy, a franchise massage therapy business looking to bring massage to the masses.

"Fourth Street is really changing," Travis said. "And it's going to continue to change. Fourth Street is a good road to be on. There's a ton of rooftops around you."

Other tenants include Clearwater Mattress and Cingular Wireless, Travis said. He may also add a frame shop but is still working on a contract. He is also talking to operators of a cafe that could fill a space.

Travis and his family were the longtime owners of two of the mobile home parks that were torn down to make way for the strip center and Bay Breeze Cove, a two-phase townhome development that has already sold 171 units and will soon start on 165 more. The homes are selling in the high $200,000s.

Travis said his family had owned the property since the 1950s and had a small shopping area there already but decided to revamp that to fit better with the new housing developments. Construction on Royal Palms started late last year. He expects the new businesses to open in the next few weeks.

The strip occupies more than 600 feet of street frontage and dips back more than 200. There is 23,000 square feet of retail space as well as a fountain and some landscaped outdoor areas, Travis said.

Construction cost $3.5-million.

The strip was patterned after the architecture of the townhome development, Travis said, so the two would blend together. There also is new commercial space to the south of the strip and across Fourth Street as the midsection of the corridor redevelops.

Travis said he is searching for more property to develop as demand for commercial space increases.

Paul Swider can be reached at 727 892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com or by participating in itsyourtimes.com.