Forget “Shops at St. Pete,” the new Baywalk will be known as “Sundial”

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The Edwards Group announced today that downtown St. Petersburg’s newest retail, dining and entertainment center will be called the SUNDIAL. 

The name honors St. Petersburg’s iconic identity as “The Sunshine City.”  A nearly three-story tall fully operational bowstring sundial, one of the largest ever created, will become the city’s newest landmark, welcoming Floridians, visitors, guests and tourists. 

“St. Petersburg is synonymous with sunshine,” said Bill Edwards, founder and chairman of The Edwards Group. “That is why we chose ‘SUNDIAL’ to identify what we know will be the leading destination-center for the West Coast of Florida.  The name is our way of proclaiming that St. Petersburg’s time to shine is right now, and the fun – and sun – never sets on The Sunshine City.” 

The colossal sundial, built locally by Thomas Sign and Awning Company, will be the centerpiece of the complex’s new courtyard fountain, with water cascading into a stunning mosaic tile lagoon that consists of approximately 288,000 water-jetted one-inch porcelain tiles.  

Edwards declined to comment on the cost, saying simply, “This is an investment in the future of St. Petersburg.”   

The sundial, fountain and mosaic lagoon were designed by internationally renowned production designer Rene Lagler.   A living legend in his industry, Lagler earned his first of five Emmy Awards for his design work on the 57th Academy Awards in 1985.  He also designed five Grammy Award broadcasts; 16 Country Music Award broadcasts; the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics; four Presidential National Conventions; two Presidential Inaugural Galas; and won his second Emmy for designing the centennial celebration for the Statue of Liberty. 

Complementing Lagler’s creation, the fountain and mosaic lagoon will showcase a family of life-sized bronze dolphins created by Mark Aeling and MGA Sculpture Studio, a St. Petersburg-based company located in the city’s thriving Warehouse Arts District.  Aeling’s artwork has been prominently displayed by some of America’s premier entertainment and hospitality brands, including Busch Entertainment Corp., Anheuser Busch, Inc., the Colorado Symphony, Six Flags over Mid America, the St. Louis Zoo and United Artists. 

Rick Baker, former mayor of St. Petersburg and current president of The Edwards Group, added, “It’s another great day in St. Petersburg when we are taking the best talent from around the world, including right here in St. Pete, and creating a gathering place that will quickly become the envy of North America.”  

Sunshine has been celebrated since St. Petersburg’s beginning, from The Evening Independent’s sunshine offer, to Mayor Pulver and his bathing beauties.  Since 1969, St. Petersburg has held the Guinness World Record for the most consecutive days of sunshine.  

After welcoming patrons with these architectural centerpieces and custom-designed sculptures, SUNDIAL visitors will then be treated to eye-popping décor unlike anything else on the continental United States.  Turkish Travertine, a natural stone that forms only in hot springs or ancient limestone caves, adorns many of the exterior faces.  Premium quartzite pavers were selected for the courtyard and the surrounding rights-of-way.  The Edwards Group decided to forego artificial materials for genuine quarried stone – a homage to the Western World’s timeless piazzas and historic city squares.  

Four 18-foot tall, 28-foot wide Bahama umbrellas will offer patrons shade throughout the courtyard.  Manufactured in Germany, these motorized umbrellas “bloom” when opened like enormous flowers.  This will be the very first time these umbrellas will be installed in the United States. 

The SUNDIAL celebrates St. Petersburg’s natural beauty while also maximizing comfort, safety and convenience.  In addition to indoor shopping, climate-controlled dining and covered parking, the center will also feature nearly 9,000 square-feet of dedicated outdoor dining space, allowing guests to enjoy a fine meal or a quick bite under the city’s famous sunshine.  A blue polycarbonate skylight will illuminate the pathway between the courtyard and Muvico.  

At twilight, the entire center will glow with signature artistic lighting – including the two sculptural perforated metal towers that grace the courtyard entry points, the fountain and the sundial itself.  LED accent lighting will also illuminate the remainder of the center, including the umbrellas, grand staircases and surrounding landscape.  

A state-of-the-art sound system, divided into four independent zones, will further enhance the transformational ambiance with gentle background music.  

Three monumental staircases, two escalators and one elevator will ensure easy passage between the first and second floors.  The east-west paseo walkway between First and Second Streets were seamlessly accented with matching aesthetics, and the walkway was widened to accommodate heavy pedestrian flow.  

The sundial, lighting structures, umbrellas and awnings were specifically designed to withstand 150 mph winds.  The R40 roof is finished with a tan-colored membrane, and all rooftop mechanical systems will be similarly painted to make the center visually consistent from all vantage points – even from above!  

Harvard Jolly Architecture worked closely with The Edwards Group to develop the highest quality design down to the smallest detail. Bill Harvard, AIA, the firm’s Chairman and CEO, expressed that “Bill Edwards sought to create an experience for every user that is befitting to the international urban resort St. Petersburg has become. I believe he has achieved that with this project.” 

St. Petersburg-based Hennessy Construction Services served as construction manager for the project.  “We are thrilled to be a part of bringing this center to life,” said owner and CEO Bronson Alexander.  “We have been in business over 90 years.  Sundial will undoubtedly be one of the most significant projects for both our firm and our city.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.