Enterprise Florida CEO Pete Antonacci said Thursday that pursuit of a new east coast headquarters planned by
TAMPA — Developer Fred Bullard, an original partner in the BayWalk retail center, has bought out the Sembler Co. for full control of the downtown St. Petersburg plaza. Bullard had owned 50 percent of BayWalk and on Thursday acknowledged buying the other half from Sembler for an undisclosed sum. He purchased the remaining portion of BayWalk through STPR Holdings, a company he controls. Bullard said he has no immediate plans for changes at BayWalk but is evaluating the plaza.
“We’ve got a chance to beef it up a bit,” Bullard said. “It’s a breath of fresh air.” Sembler and Bullard opened the entertainment and shopping plaza in fall 2000, with Bullard’s firm, the Bullard Group, staying a silent investor. The plaza opened about the same time as Centro Ybor and Channelside in Tampa. BayWalk has fared better than Centro Ybor and Channelside but in recent years has suffered setbacks, including problems with unruly teenagers at night and rising vacancy. Greg Sembler, chief executive officer of Sembler Co., said BayWalk has a vacancy rate of about 16 percent, which is fairly high for a Bay area retail center.
However, much of the vacancy is in the area surrounding the Muvico movie theater, while the Mid-Core area surrounding the parking garage is full, Sembler said. Sembler said his firm typically seeks to sell the shopping centers that it develops and has been marketing BayWalk for sale for the past year. Bullard is well-known in Pinellas County. He developed the Feather Sound area decades ago and owns several restaurants, including the Durango Steakhouse chain and an interest in Gratzzi’s Ristorante at BayWalk.