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St. Pete - SPC Downtown Expansion

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Intellectual property: St. Pete College to grow downtown
Tampa Bay Business Journal - April 27, 2007by Jane MeinhardtStaff Writer

Kathleen Cabble
Yvonne Ulmer, executive officer of SPC Downtown Center in St. Petersburg, at the site of SPC’s expansion-to-be. The shops will be torn down.

ST. PETERSBURG -- The vacant, decrepit shops across from Williams Park that once housed a cafe, a tattoo parlor, other small retail businesses and an occasional vagrant will fall to make way for St. Petersburg College's downtown expansion.

The college plans to demolish the old structures and build a 40,000-square-foot, mixed-use addition to its Downtown Center.

The project, which is still in design stages, will provide a permanent home for local theater company American Stage.

A box office also will be included as a one-stop shopping site for American Stage, the Palladium Theatre and the Florida Orchestra. SPC has taken all three cultural organizations under its wing as part of a plan to create an downtown arts hub using state matching funds.

Retail and office included
The site for the college's new building is on Third Street South on the east side of Williams Park. It is occupied by nearly 10,000 square feet of vacant shops, and was part of the college's $2.1 million purchase of the former Maas Bros. parking garage and adjacent property.

"We will be applying for demolition permits for those old shops," said Susan Reiter, facilities director for SPC. "That will make lots of people downtown happy."

The college plans a four- or five-story building that will be connected to its existing Downtown Center next door.

The design-build project would cost about $10 million, pending completion of its design, Reiter estimated.

Canerday Belfsky Arroyo Architects Inc. in St. Petersburg is designing the building. Biltmore Construction is the construction manager.

Because it is in a redevelopment district, the building will include retail -- possibly a bookstore -- and office space in addition to the American Stage facility.

"What we want to do is include some small type of food service similar to what is on our other campuses," Reiter said. "It would be more like a deli for our students, faculty and staff."

American Stage will lease nearly 10,000 square feet on the second floor, which will include a black box theater with seating for about 220, an intermission area overlooking Williams Park and a catering kitchen.

The performing arts company sold its downtown property, which includes a 148-seat theater, to Vector Realty for $1 million.

"We'll have about the same amount of space at the college, but it will certainly be better," said Don Shea, American Stage's president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. "The driving word is intimacy. We want to retain that intimacy people like in the new theater."

The theater currently has six rows of seats no further than 9 feet from the stage. The new facility will have six longer rows the same distance from the stage or closer, Shea said.

Drawn in
The college's Downtown Center has drawn new people to downtown, including minorities and residents of the Midtown area, Shea said. Many are using public transportation to get to the college.

"The college is able to customize curricula for downtown employers and continue to grow that way," he said. "They'll also be able to offer certificate and associate programs related to the theater arts once American Stage is there."

The campus has already achieved its expected enrollment of 1,500 students, said Yvonne Ulmer, executive officer of the Downtown Center. The college offers 100 sections of classes and operates from 7 a.m. to 9:40 p.m. to accommodate working students and employees of downtown businesses.

"We're kind of maxed out and continue adding programs," Ulmer said. "We're in that dream stage now about what the center can become with the new building and the theater."

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