Imagine a gracious plaza surrounded by inviting coffee bars, restaurants and specialty retail. Add a 20-screen Muvico movie theater and you have a viable destination, not only for visitors and tourists but, more importantly, for locals.
"We expect the Muvico to draw 800,000 people a year from a five-mile or more radius," says John Clark of Development Design Group in Baltimore. "Theater-goers help irrigate the food and retail components."
Development Design Group is the designer of BayWalk, a Sembler Company lifestyle project in downtown St. Petersburg, Fla., comprising a 150,000 sq. ft. open-air plaza anchored by the 84,000 sq. ft. Muvico Theater with tenants Wet Willies, Key West Confections, Too-Jay's Deli, Brainfood bookstore, Eyetems, Johnny Rockets, Town Tavern/Martini Bar, Adobo Grill, Dish (restaurant), AnnTaylor and Birkenstock by Happy Feet. The entertainment retail complex is scheduled to open in November.
Clark says Development Design Group has been doing entertainment-based centers since the late 1980s. He says heavily themed centers become excellent catalysts for surrounding property as well as enjoying success themselves.
"We chose a Mediterranean theme for BayWalk because it fits in with what already exists in the area ," Clark says. "It captures the romance of that style of architecture."
In creating a special place, the firm suggested greater use of detail, even including pavement and heights of floors. An outdoor plaza needs to look comfortable and intimate whether packed or nearly empty. It invites you to stop for a cappuccino and pastry early in the morning, to people-watch in the afternoon and evening and to have a quick ice cream cone or dessert after a movie at night.
BayWalk and Centro Ybor in Tampa are The Sembler Company's first entertainment-based centers. They represent its confidence in this newer type of retail. BayWalk is also a way for Sembler to be involved in its own community, says David Murphy, Sembler senior vice president of build-to-suit operations.
"Our company keeps an eye toward the future. It picks up on trends."