They’ll take a Village

Posted by Mitch Perry on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 8:32 PM

The fountain in Hyde Park Village Circle. - TODD BATES
  • Todd Bates
  • The fountain in Hyde Park Village Circle.

Consider this: Interested parties who have been considering purchasing the distressed Channelside property east of downtown Tampa have offered between $5.75 and $7 million in recent months.

Meanwhile, Hyde Park Village, which has had its own problems with vacancies, went for a stunning $45 million pricetag last fall.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind property, impossible to replicate,” says Louis C. Masiello, vice president of development for WS Development, a Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts developer that competitively outbid other businesses to take the prime real estate.

The company manages and operates more than 85 properties around the country, though most are centered in the Northeast. WS Development has spread its wings in recent years, however, including a development in Jackson, Mississippi. But this is its first endeavor in the Sunshine State.

The current status of Hyde Park Village is decidedly mixed. The retail spaces that border the Village Circle and its burbling fountain are all occupied, as are the boutiques of Snow Circle, the pedestrian walkway behind the Wine Exchange. But vacancies remain in big parcels fronting on Snow Avenue, and Masiello is vague when asked about new tenants and/or physical improvements to the buildings.

“I would think that over the course of the next three to six months we’ll be in a position to have more concrete plans for what we would be doing in a physical sense,” he says. Although there has been speculation for years that a new developer would want to build housing on the site, that’s not the focus of WS Development.

One thing that Masiello wants to clear up is who the development will be catering to. In a recent Tampa Tribune story, he was quoted as saying that his organization would be targeting more of a “pinot grigio” crowd, which he says did not come out sounding as it was intended to.

“We welcome the young, the old, all different income demographics,” he assured CL in a recent interview. “We want the Village to be very welcoming and inclusive to all.” Translated, establishments that offer a healthy adult-beverage menu like Irish 31 are “a great addition to the overall mix of the area.”

But he does make clear that there is and always will be a difference between Hyde Park Village and South Howard. While the SoHo strip contains a myriad of owners concerned strictly with their individual businesses, Masiello says that historically Hyde Park Village has been managed by a single entity that attempts to manage the entire environment.

And, he says, the emphasis in Hyde Park Village isn’t on drinking.

“We do see a furtherance of restaurants with a variety of food offerings and occasional alcohol sales as a good healthy thing for the Village, and don’t see it as a corollary to Howard. We see Howard as offering something else than what the Village offers.”

Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern says she really likes what Masiello and WS are promising. “They said they really want to have some local flavor, and smaller, rather ‘boutiquey’ kind of high-end retailers and restaurants.”

But she remains a bit cautious in her optimism. “We’ll see.”

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