TAMPA — The master plan is still very much a work in progress, but the developer hoping to remake Hyde Park Village is ready to talk about a few of the biggest changes they envision. And at least one part of the plan involves likely taking down one of the emptier and less appealing buildings in the site and constructing a new one.
“I think we’ll probably going to be ready to come back to the community later this summer and begin the dialogue,” said Louis C. Masiello, vice president of development for WS Development, which bought the property last year. “We don’t expect to show a fixed plan and then start to build right away ... This is beginning a collaboration with the neighborhood and the city.”
Masiello listed the four ideas that have advanced the most in their thinking.
First, a significant architectural renovation throughout the village, but largely “dealing with the buildings we have,” he said. “This is about sprucing up the aesthetic look, not changing the bones of buildings, because these are stores doing business.” That means remaking the facades of many locations and conducting an overall refresh of the most visible areas.
Second, some property-wide improvements in the public areas. Fixing sidewalks, improving the landscaping, adding seating and improving the plaza area to make a more pleasant experience. This does not mean re-arranging any streets, but where there’s a chance to possibly expand a sidewalk or improve the pedestrian flow, Masiello said this is the time to do it.
Third, the “H Block” building will almost certainly have to come down. This is the largely empty wedge-shaped building on the southern side of the property that now houses the mall management offices. “We’ve all but determined that this really needs to be replaced with a new building,” Masiello said. “But therein lies the opportunity. We can build a jewel of a building, and the aesthetic of the building will need a tremendous amount of public input. We want this to be a public process.”
Here there’s some good news for those who are fans of the Oxford Exchange renovated building on Kennedy Boulevard. Masiello has hired the same architecture firm that designed the Oxford Exchange, the Atlanta-based firm of Smith Dalia. The new Hyde Park Village won’t be a copycat version however, Masiello said, but will very much use that firm’s talent with taking existing buildings and re-making them into revitalized classic-style spaces.
Fourth, Masiello said they are working through selecting new tenants for the space, and after a May exhibit at retail trade shows, they’re fielding significant interest. “There’s quite a bit of interest from stores in high fashion,” he said, and some announcements may come in the next couple months. “These are places with very cutting edge apparel that might have only a handful of outlets in the country. One in New York. One in L.A.”
A boutique grocery store is definitely in the mix, Masiello said, likely at the north-end of a rebuild “Block H” building. “A Dean & DeLuca-type of operator would be great,” he said. “To the extent this may be a national brand, it would have to be a specialty grocer.” Masiello chuckled at the mention of a Walmart Neighborhood market, saying “it would have to be a more creative format.”
If the idea of adding residential units to the area was on the back burner before, Masiello said “It’s way, way on the back burner now.”
Likely none of their plans will require any re-zoning of the property, he said, but likely lots of items will need city approval and approval from the Architectural Review Commission, which he welcomes.
As for any potential start date for heavy construction, Masiello said not to expect any before the holidays, particularly because stores rely on that season so much. After the turn of the year, however, if plans meet with neighborhood approval, then Masiello said people can expect a good bit of activity on the site.