Samantha David was "blown away" the first time she visited Hyde Park Village.
"It was the most charming, beautiful environment," David, the head of Boston-based WS Development's luxury property group, said Friday. "I think it’s really a little downtown more than it is a development."
That line of thinking — respecting the village's history and celebrating its "quirkiness," as David described it — has been the driving force behind the redevelopment of Hyde Park Village, which WS bought in September 2013. The group spent more than a year figuring out how to reposition the property, which was in need of renovation and new tenants when WS closed on it.
"You don’t want to really master plan it," David said. "You want to create great architecture to surround the historic buildings so each piece is as good as the last piece."
The vision is beginning to take shape: One of the first new tenants, Paper Source, will open next week, with bartaco to follow shortly after. Construction is underway on Sur La Table, which is backfilling the former Restoration Hardware space, as well as On Swann, a restaurant venture by Tampa chef Chris Ponte. Local favorites Buddy Brew and Goody Goody have signed on, and there are more announcements to come shortly, David said.
The redevelopment of Hyde Park Village represents more than millions of dollars of capital investment and sexy new retailers and restaurants. If WS succeeds at repositioning the property, it will become a signature district for Tampa that could become a regional destination — one that will draw visitors and their discretionary income from around Florida.
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There are no sure bets in commercial real estate, but Hyde Park Village is about as close to one as a developer could get. While stymied by the Great Recession, it is a trophy asset in a trade area with an average annual household income of $115,000, according to WS. The property is already anchored by national destination retailers: West Elm, Pottery Barn and Anthropologie.
From feel-good vibes to the bottom line
To help shape their vision of the property, WS executives held multiple meetings with the neighborhoods that surround Hyde Park Village.
"Sur La Table is an example," David said. "'A great kitchen store' was something we kept getting requests for, so we really aggressively went after that."
The community was "very positive" about the redevelopment and enthusiastic about offering input, she said — which has already translated into higher sales for existing tenants.
"Everyone’s ramping up," David said. "I can’t think of anyone’s who not."
To keep the buzz going, WS will program the property with events and festivals to draw foot traffic and attract new visitors. The farmers' market is already popular, and David said the group is vetting other events for the village.
"We're looking at partnerships with local charities and being a bit more focused on arts and culture," she said, "and really creating things that we are thinking are more in line with the tenants."
Local versus national: finding the right mix
The lineup of tenants so far — existing and under construction — represents a mix of Tampa-grown concepts and national retailers.
Bringing in local names was a priority, David said, to contribute to the property's unique vibe. Buddy Brew, Goody Goody and On Swann are locally owned, and there will likely be more to come, though she declined to disclose any pending deals.
But the national retailers are important to the property's success.
"They have big marketing budgets — they can drive a lot of foot traffic," David said. "And the truth is, they bring people to the site who would never have otherwise gone there."
High on retailers' radar
As the economy improves, many retailers are in expansion mode in Tampa Bay, from specialty grocers to home decor stores. But because there's little retail space available in prime neighborhoods — and very few developments underway — those retailers aren't able to set up shop here.
But with WS looking to do deals, Hyde Park Village has offered a solution for some retailers. That's been one of the "most validating" parts of the redevelopment, David said: Bringing in retailers and restaurants that otherwise would not have a Tampa presence.
There are also the local operators who were already in Tampa but tell WS that they wouldn't have considered Hyde Park Village previously, like the Dave and Susan Ward, the founders of Buddy Brew. Richard Gonzmart, who is reviving the long-dead Tampa burger chain Goody Goody in the village, has said the same.
"These are people who are so passionate about Tampa and know it so well and have done such amazing things for Tampa Bay," David said, "and they say, 'We wouldn’t have gone to the village before.'"