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Dew's move won't speed up Publix

The developer buying Dew Cadillac's downtown St. Petersburg property says they won't start construction until 2003.

By SHARON L. BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2001


The developer buying Dew Cadillac's downtown St. Petersburg property says they won't start construction until 2003.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Dew Cadillac has found a site for a new home in Pinellas Park, but it will be more than a year before its longtime property in downtown St. Petersburg is sold to make way for a Publix supermarket.

Dew is moving because developers have an agreement to buy its space at 224 Third St. S in St. Petersburg. Plans are to build University Village, a retail/residential complex that will include an urban grocery, shops and 250 rental apartments. In development plans submitted to the city of St. Petersburg, the grocery is identified as a Publix.

The Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg, developer of BayWalk, and Zom Development Inc. of Orlando will build University Village. Zom already is building 277 luxury apartments near the Dew site. The development is called the Madison. Sembler has built a number of shopping centers throughout Florida with Publix grocery stores.

Craig Sher, president and chief executive officer of Sembler, said the fact that Dew has found a site for a new dealership will not speed up the purchase of its downtown St. Petersburg site for development.

"It wouldn't affect us because we have a deal for closing in January 2003," Sher said Tuesday of the agreement with Dimmitt Cadillac, owner of Dew. "They have got to build." After the closing, construction will begin on the grocery.

Sher said a lease has not yet been signed with Publix but may be completed within the next 30 days.

He also said it is good Dew had located a new place for the dealership, which has been a fixture in downtown St. Petersburg since the early years of the last century.

"They can move ahead," Sher said.

Richard Dimmitt, who owns Dimmitt Cadillac in Clearwater, bought Dew Cadillac in May 2000. He is out of town and not available for comment on the new dealership, according to his office.

Dimmitt said in 2000 that he planned to improve Dew Cadillac and keep it a going business in St. Petersburg, where it enjoys a solid reputation. But he was approached soon after by Publix and agreed to sell it. That deal fell through but was revived when Zom joined and the development became a residential/retail project.

For its new home, Dew has selected a seven-acre site at 3333 Gandy Blvd. in Gateway Centre business park in Pinellas Park. It plans to construct a two-story building for its new car business that will be more than 30,000 square feet, according to plans filed with zoning officials. It will have a smaller building for its used car business and room on the lots for more than 300 new and used cars.

The development faces several steps in the approval process with both Gateway Centre and the city of Pinellas Park.

When the deal to develop the Dew site was revived several months ago, Dew's general manager Jack Doherty talked about the need for a new facility.

He described operating in the downtown St. Petersburg site as a hindrance because there is not enough parking or space for inventory. And he said strict security was needed to prevent damage to the inventory.

Doherty was not available for comment Tuesday on the new site.

Times staff writer Anne Lindberg contributed to this report.

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