There is a purse being made from a sow’s ear in the Skyway Marina District (SMD) thanks to Michael Bonaddio, owner of Round Again Resale, Geary Walton, the general manager of the Skyway Marina Mall and many other business owners who have taken a gamble and created stores in this retail space being renovated as funds become available.
What is happening in this formerly neglected building between 42nd and 46th avenues south exemplifies what the City of St. Petersburg and the members of the SMD hope will be happening all over the area. Whether it’s new projects like the Getaway Restaurant being build in Maximo Marina and Sur Club, a 296-unit, mixed-use development with two restaurants and a lazy river, or renovations being undertaken at the marina and the mall itself, things are happening here.
The mall makeover began last summer. Walton arrived in May and Bonaddio was the first owner to open shop there in June.
“It was all tarps and they really didn’t know what to do with the mall,” says Bonaddio. “It was me and my partner’s idea to build proper little stores and turn this into something more than just a flea market.”
Walton made him the assistant manager and they went to work. The roof leaked, the electrical had been “sabotaged,” the meter rooms were boarded up, and they had to replace two, 10-ton A/C units. The landscaping and parking lot were an eye sore and mounds of debris were piled up behind the building.
“Not only did we have to clear out the mall, but then we had to find a way to bring people in here,” he adds. Without renters to generate income, they had to wait to make repairs and build stores as money became available.
And build they did. According to Bonaddio they now have 85 businesses in the 82,000 square feet of space with 30 others on the waiting list.
It is a colorful, eclectic mix of shops including salons, art galleries, resale stores, furniture, antiques, jewelry, gifts and collectibles, clothes and food.
There is still much work to be done with plans to replace a transformer, paint the building, get a new marquis, update the landscaping and sprinkler system and maybe get a mural painted on one side of the building in keeping with the district’s plan to incorporate art in the area.
New SMD Executive Director Misty Borttoff, whose experience includes a stint as the executive director of the Otsego-Plainwell Chamber of Commerce in Michigan and the promotions chairperson for the Otsego Main Street, is excited about the potential for the area.
Sitting in the mall at the counter of Brea’s Coffee Shop, owned by Bruce and Andrea McWilliams, she talks about the previous night’s association meeting and successfully recruits a volunteer for one of the SMD committees which include: Marketing/Promotions, Arts & Design, Organization, and Economic Vitality.
She oversees the committees, recruits and renews members, applies for grants and runs the meetings. She is continuing to use the Main Street Four Point Approach to manage the SMD that was already in place, and she plans to take advantage of the technical assistance available through the Florida Main Street program.
In addition to volunteers for committees, the district needs volunteers for events they support like the upcoming Skyway Bridge Race on March 4, the first ever St Pete Tiny Home Festival & Live Local Expo, Apr. 7 and 8 at the SPC Allstate Center, and SMD’s May Day Race at Ceridian on May 5.
“I’m trying to grow and get a lot of creative juices flowing,” she says. She also wants to make residents and businesses know they can participate. “I want them to be a part of this, and we can make it great together. I will make it my baby, but share with everyone; everyone’s a babysitter.”
She also wants to get a “center” for the district. “My mind automatically goes to a fountain where the fountain is the center of the area, and that’s where we hold our events.
“We are hoping to make this a destination of the people in the area and those people can invite their friends from out of the area, and it just becomes a great place to visit and live.”
“We are delighted the district is undergoing a renaissance, reinvigorating the highway 19 south corridor with the city’s support. We’re all very excited for its future and the SMD’s commitment to realizing its potential for the residents and businesses invested in the community,” says Karen Trefz with Bay Moorings Animal Hospital.
“We are optimistic about future plans. Every success starts with ideas and I’ve heard some good ideas from the association,” says Michael Murpy, owner of Anytime Fitness on 34th Street S. “The mere fact that we are now ‘branding’ the area and have constructed signs will help us define ourselves.”
Michael Mavro, owner of Orvee’s Pet Centers & Dog Grooming wants the district to work at keeping things local.
“As a charter member of the Skyway Marina District I am proud to have served this community since 2006. I would like to see the district focus on bringing in more locally owned small business. I believe that we should be keeping the money in our district.”
Click here for more information.