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BayWalk schedules Nov. 17 opening

The developer is hoping all the restaurants but one and about half the retail shops will open then.

[Times photos: Bill Serne]
In the center of the main area of BayWalk, tile workers were busy Thursday installing patterned tile. From the left are Jeff Bergendahl and John Bylock of Keystone Tile in Largo.

By BRYAN GILMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- There will be lots more to do in downtown St. Petersburg when the BayWalk entertainment and shopping complex opens to the public Nov. 17.

photo
Workers continue their work on cosmetic construction chores at the BayWalk project with the opening date less than a month away.
Craig Sher, CEO of BayWalk developer Sembler Co., and Sembler vice president Steve Althoff announced the date Thursday as they escorted reporters through the nearly completed project between First and Second streets N and Second and Third avenues.

Workers set paving stones in the large courtyard and hung wallboard in the storefronts and awnings over the escalators.

Sher said he hopes all the restaurants but one will be open on Nov. 17. And about half the retail stores should be open by then, too. There will be a week of invitation-only events leading up to the public opening.

Sembler Co. also announced that early next year, St. Petersburg will gain points toward youthful hipness when a Starbucks Coffee shop opens below the BayWalk parking garage.

The Seattle purveyor of hazelnut lattes will occupy one of the garage building's several retail storefronts, said Althoff.

The garage, along First Avenue N, will have free parking at night and on weekends for the first 90 days after BayWalk opens. After that, night and weekend parking will cost $1 for three hours. Daytime parking will be at comparable downtown rates.

The new Starbucks will be just a block from the Daily Grind in the Plaza near BayWalk, and steps from the Marketplace Express gourmet store in the ground floor of the Cloisters condominium, both of which offer espresso drinks.

But according to one local coffee specialist, St. Petersburg is not likely to turn into a little Seattle, where there is a Starbucks, a Seattle's Best or an independent coffee house on every downtown corner and in every office tower.

Too hot here.

"If you love the taste, you're going to seek it out and order the drink," said Kurt Cuccaro, whose family owns Mazzarro Coffee Roasters on 22nd Avenue N. "I think that it's never going to be like a Northeast market or a West Coast market, but at the same time, there's a lot of people who love good coffee and coffee drinks."

The lobby of BayWalk's 20-screen Muvico movie house has an elegant look, with sand colored walls, a large chandelier, oversized crown mouldings and a snack counter 100 feet long. There has been some criticism about the colors on the cinema building, which is a sunny yellow with chocolate and copper trim. But Sher said there would be some changes. On one corner of the structure, contractors have added lighter trim colors to see how they look.

"The brown is a tough color," Sher said. "It's going to be lightened up in some way."

This Muvico will not have an adults-only "Premier" screening room, as Sembler's new Centro Ybor location does, but all the auditoriums have stadium-like rows with chairs that include fold-away arm rests and look like the bucket seats in a sports car.

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