We’re happy to tell you that the one-time Sweetbay Supermarket in New Tampa, closed and abandoned for nearly eight years, is finally on the brink of a much-needed transformation.

Located right across Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. from the AMC movie theater and next to Home Depot, the property the building sits on is currently under contract and, if things proceed as planned, a new tenant will begin the process of moving in by early 2021.

Who that new tenant will be, and what kind of business might be headed for the long-empty building, however, was still a mystery at our press time.

“I can tell you it has been under contract, but I can’t tell you who,” says John Neukamm, the attorney for KNK Tampa, Ltd., the California-based owners of the building. “Hopefully, within the next few months, you will see some changes up there.”

Neukamm wouldn’t give any hints about what kind of business might be filling the vacant building, which has more than 30,000 square feet of space.

It won’t be a bowling alley, which he confirmed after we jokingly took a wild guess, and Neukamm says it is unlikely to be another grocery-type store, considering that Sprouts just opened a little north of the location and an Aldi has begun construction directly across the street. 

“I think the neighborhood will be happy,” he says. 

Neukamm also says he is confident the buyer will be putting some “major renovations” into the project.

It will definitely need it.

The Sweetbay building closed in 2013 and since then, has been unoccupied while its parking lot has gone through various stages of disrepair, overflowing at times with tractor-trailers and parked storage trucks while also serving as a dumping ground for people getting rid of old furniture and appliances.

Tampa District 7 City Council member Luis Viera and his predecessor Lisa Montelione sicked code enforcement on the property’s lease-holder multiple times over the years.

“It has been a long road for New Tampa with this property,” Viera says.  “Its inactive status has caused many challenges for New Tampa and I am happy that it is under contract and look forward to seeing what comes in here. The fact that this is under contract by itself is a good step for our New Tampa community, as this has been a problem site.”

The property currently is worth $1.5 million, according to Hillsborough County property records. KNK Tampa, Ltd. bought it in 2001 and leased it to Kash n’ Karry for a 20-year term beginning in November of that year.

Kash n’ Karry operated under the lease until June 14, 2006, when its Belgian parent company Delhaize America, Inc., converted it into a Sweetbay.  

But, despite its rebranding, Sweetbay could not compete with nearby Publix or Walmart. When Delhaize announced it would be closing 22 stores in the Tampa Bay area, its New Tampa location was part of that group.

In October of 2013, Jacksonville-based Bi-Lo Holdings, the parent company of Winn-Dixie, paid $265 million for 72 Sweetbay stores, plus the leases to 10 other underperforming Sweetbay supermarkets that had already been closed. One of those leases belonged to the New Tampa location, which had six years remaining on it, but Bi-Lo Holdings declined to do anything with the property other than pay the rent.

Finally, it’s time for something new.

“Probably, by early next year, it will all be coming out; it will be obvious what is going on,” Neukamm says. “It is going to be an asset for the neighborhood.”

We asked our readers on our Neighborhood News Facebook page what they would like to see in the space currently occupied by the old Sweetbay, and they responded.

Some responded jokingly (we assume), by suggesting New Tampa could really use a giant Starbucks (hardy har har, Brandon Maldonado) or a combination pizza, burger, and self-storage facility (also real funny, Richard W. King).

Others were emphatic, with ALL CAPS!!!! (We get it, Chris King, you want a Trader Joe’s and as you said) “NOTHING ELSE IS ACCEPTABLE!!”

King, however, spoke for the most of those who responded. In fact, our readers really, really, really want a Trader Joe’s, even with Publix, Sprouts and soon-to-be Aldi all within walking distance. And, how much do people love their trendy grocery stores? Lucky’s Market, Fresh Market and Whole Foods also all received some votes.

Those other markets didn’t receive as much love, however, as Total Wine & More, which wasn’t too far behind Trader Joe’s when it came to our readers.

You want food and drink, clearly — although a good many folks also want something to do — and we concur! A bowling alley, roller skating rink and indoor go-kart place all received votes, although we were disappointed to see no one suggest a Dave & Busters (JCC) or a live music venue (GN).

Kevin Waters: I would love a Wright’s Deli somewhere in New Tampa/WC. Driving to S. Tampa is too far.

Pam Smith: Go carts, Fresh Market, Armature Works-like venue, Indoor small business venue

Diane Kelly Payne: Quaker Steak & Lube, outdoor music stage, car shows, etc…a fun place to go

Tara Fritsch Schmidt: Luekens Liquors or Trader Joe’s.

Donna Billie: A regular skating rink…not ice.

Lucy Meyer: Trader Joe’s, Fresh Market or Total Wine!

Dannieal Cooper: Indoor go-carts and arcade. Well kept with food and beverages

Kim Channels: A bowling alley or Spaghetti Warehouse

Geraldine Gomez: Kohl’s, Total Wine, PF Chang’s or Trader Joe’s!!! No more storage units!

Armando Rivera: Is a Medieval Brothel a possibility…asking for a friend.

Christie Frederick: A really good seafood restaurant. (There are) none around New Tampa

Doug Smith: A micro brewery!

Nagesh Nayak: Raquetball Court.

Barry Doupnik: Anything!! It’s a dump and an eyesore.

Tim N Catia Notarpietro: Planet Fitness! We need one up here!

Gina Arkell Tim Stokes: Just not another gym.

Richard Spencer: Bowling & arcade. Or trampoline park.

Nicolette Marie: Lucky’s Market!

Ivant Liberty: Cabela’s

Here are some of the other suggestions we received: 

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