A tale of two shopping centers: Sundial vs. Channelside

Tampa, FL -- Huge crowds were expected for tonight's Tampa Bay Lightning playoff game, but if fans wanted to do some pre-game partying at nearby Channelside, they'd find their choices had become increasingly limited.

It used to be the same for St. Petersburg's Baywalk, which eventually closed.

But now Baywalk has a new name - Sundial. And there's a retail renaissance taking place.

It used to be everyone would blame the economy but in this tale of two shopping centers, why is one rising from the ashes while the other continues to struggle?

In St. Petersburg you can tell residents near Sundial have a feeling of optimism.

"We're excited to see it come to fruition, finally," said Alan Sherman, who lives a block away.

Manitia Moultrie, another neighbor agreed.

"I was a frequent visitor to Baywalk," said Moultrie, "and I'm looking forward to all the shops and entertainment that may come about."

The upscale mini-mall is taking shape on what was the old Baywalk footprint. There's now artwork, sculpture, landscaping, and ceiling fans that give the impression it's nearing completion.

There's also a new steakhouse coming in. A spa, movie theater and jeweler are among the growing list of tenants committed to the project.

"Just seeing the transition of this and downtown is just wonderful," said local resident Nancy Howard.

But at the same time, whatever Sundial has been doing right to rejuvenate what was a retail wreck, Channelside in Tampa has apparently yet to figure out.

Tenants here have been leaving, eateries sit empty and Channelside Cinemas is closed.

For three years the property has been mired in a bankruptcy and legal limbo when it comes to finding a purchaser.

"It's just a shame, it really is," said MaryJo Boyle, visiting Channelside with friends.

"I just don't know why – why it wouldn't be better served," said her husband Joe, admiring the waterfront location.

Given its proximity to Tampa's downtown density, the Port, conventions and the Forum, you might think Channelside would be the one booming.

But realtors say it has its challenges.

"The rest of the downtown area is dead. It's businesses during the day," said real estate agent Eileen Bedinghaus,"but at night there's nothing in downtown."

Still, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn says he's confident that a recent legal ruling will give the Port Authority a chance to move forward with the sale of Channelside soon.

With the Riverwalk taking shape along downtown Tampa's waterfront and a nearby hi-rise housing boom underway, Channelside, says Buckhorn, is also poised for a comeback.

"I envision at one point Channelside anchoring an entire entertainment area that will stretch all the way to the convention center," said the mayor.

Among the retailers and restaurants who've committed to Sundial, are Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, the Marilyn Monroe Spa, Diamond's Direct, Sea Salt, dress designer Tracy Negoshian, and a new movie theater operator.

If you'd like to follow the Sundial progress, you can access their Facebook page just click here.


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