If the dealership moves to Seminole, it will leave a coveted chunk of downtown real estate open for development.
By SHARON L. BOND
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 17, 2000
ST. PETERSBURG -- When Dimmitt Cadillac of Clearwater bought Dew Cadillac, it pledged to keep the longtime auto dealer downtown.
In fact, Dimmitt said it planned a major renovation to make the 85-year-old dealership look as it did in the 1920s, St. Petersburg's boom era.
No different plans have been announced. But Dimmitt apparently has changed its mind. According to plans filed with the city of Seminole, a new home will be built there for Dew Cadillac.
Through a spokeswoman, owner Richard Dimmitt said Friday he had "no comment at this time" on the future of the St. Petersburg dealership. But Seminole's building officials say Dimmitt plans a showplace for Dew.
So what will happen to Dew's St. Petersburg location at 224 Third St. S?
The main building of the dealership occupies just about an entire block. Dew also owns two pieces of nearby property: a lot at Third Avenue S and Second Street, which is used as an employee parking lot, and a corner lot at Third Avenue S and Third Street, which is a used car lot.
The Dew site is a prime piece of property in a downtown that is in the midst of another boom time. Three luxury condominiums have been built near the waterfront. A fourth is in the early planning stages, and several other small residential projects are in the works. A $40-million entertainment and retail complex just opened. A new office building is planned and others are being refurbished. Restaurants are plentiful, and downtown night life no longer is an oxymoron.
"A car dealership in a central business district is a relatively low intense use," said Rick Mussett, administrator of St. Petersburg's Economic Development Administration. "Over time, with change and growth, almost inevitable," pressure builds from private interests to use the property for something else.
"There is definitely interest in the site. That is what created the eventual opportunity for Dew," Mussett said. He was not able to disclose who is purchasing the site.
Speculation continues that the Dew land will be the site for a neighborhood shopping center and maybe even provide land so that an already planned luxury apartment project can be enlarged.
The Sembler Co. is one of the developers of BayWalk, the entertainment and retail complex. It tried to get a grocery store in the mix of tenants in the project but was unsuccessful. Publix Supermarkets Inc. initially expressed interest but then backed out as the project was gearing up. Speculation continues that Sembler is trying to locate a supermarket at another spot downtown.
Craig Sher, president and chief executive officer of Sembler, said Friday his company is "continuing to be optimistic about locating a major supermarket in downtown St. Petersburg south of Central Avenue. We are diligently working toward that end." He would not provide details.
ZOM Development Inc. of Orlando is building two five-story buildings of luxury rental apartments on blocks near the Dew site. Development manager Greg West was not immediately available Friday to say whether the project has been extended.
The ZOM blocks are: Fourth Avenue S and Delmar Terrace between First and Second streets and the second lot between Second and Third streets.
Dew Cadillac, one of the oldest dealerships in the country, can trace its beginnings nearly to the start of the last century. It is one of the better-known business names in St. Petersburg and remained downtown long after dealers took their cars out of city centers.