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Romano's approved for Tyrone Square

The EDC okays the restaurant for the parking lot near Sears, despite objections from local homeowners associations.

By SHEILA MULLANE ESTRADA

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001


ST PETERSBURG -- Despite strong opposition from two neighborhood associations, the Environmental Development Commission unanimously approved construction of a new restaurant in the Sears parking lot at Tyrone Square Mall.

The 7,000-square-foot restaurant, Romano's Macaroni Grille, will face Tyrone Boulevard just west of 66th Street. Unless the site plan approval is successfully appealed to the City Council, the restaurant is expected to open by October, according to developers.

Both the Crossroads Area Homeowners Association and the Jungle Terrace Civic Association opposed the project but have yet to decide whether to appeal Wednesday's action.

"I really believe this is an enormous improvement to this side of the mall," EDC commissioner Calvin Samuel said.

Construction of the restaurant was supported by the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as Sears and Tyrone Square Mall management. City planners recommended the proposal, arguing that it would assist in the mall's attempt to rejuvenate itself and remain competitive with newer shopping developments.

In recent years, Tyrone Square has added several new developments, including a Borders Book Store, a new food court and extensive landscaping upgrades, the city noted.

"The proposed Romano's Macaroni Grille would be of mutual benefit to Sears and the Mall by the attraction of additional visitors," stated the city's planning department report.

"This is a faulty staff review. I think it's stupid," said Crossroads president Morton Sherman, who argued that increased traffic would make an already congested intersection more dangerous. He also questioned whether enough parking would remain for both the restaurant and the mall.

"Sears has done an abysmal job of maintaining what little landscaping currently exists," said Jungle Terrace president Steve Plice. "There is no indication that past practices will not continue in the future."

But Sears manager Marge Jones defended the restaurant. "If I felt parking would be an inconvenience to my customers, I never would have gone along with it," she said.

Mall manager Scott Rolston said the restaurant would provide mall customers with another dining alternative and increase the amount of time spent at the mall.

"This project is good for our mall. It is another important key in the continuing development of the Tyrone business district," he said.

Chamber president Russ Sloan said the restaurant will create an opportunity for further job growth, would contribute to the vitality of the area and would be a benefit for the city and residents.

The EDC agreed.

Each month the EDC meets to consider proposed development projects that require variances or site plan approval, or requests for alley or right-of-way easements. If the requests are not too far out of line with city codes, the EDC will recommend their approval to the city council -- providing the developer includes substantial green space and other changes to improve the appearance of the project.

Among other items EDC approved Wednesday were:

BAY ISLE KEY APARTMENTS: A site plan, special exception and variances for construction of the second phase of a luxury multifamily complex on 118th Avenue east of Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street N. The $10-million Gateway area project proposed by Echelon Commercial LLC will include 213 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, enclosed garages, fitness center, pool and gated entries.

BRIGHTON BAY VILLAS: A site plan for a rental community on 168 acres on Gandy Boulevard. The project will include 381 two- and three-story buildings, a central pool area and enclosed garages. The developers say the complex will mirror the Coves at Brighton Bay, a similar multifamily project immediately to the east. The value of the total project is estimated at $78-million.

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