TAMPA (FOX 13) - Demolition has begun on the southwest wing of Channelside Bay Plaza. On Wednesday morning, construction crews began tearing down the footbridge on the second story, leading to what used to be the Channelside Cinema.
Developers with Strategic Property Partners (SPP), backed by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, plan to build a waterfront park in place of the southwest wing.
"It's the wing that separates this existing structure from the water, so once this is down you'll have sweeping views into the channel and over to Harbour Island. You'll be able to see people paddle boarding and kayaking," said Ali Glisson, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for SPP.
Demolition is expected to take two weeks. The new waterfront park will be just under an acre in size, housing a stage for performances, seating space and pop-up restaurants and retailers.
"We recognize that there's a huge opportunity having this space open to the waterfront and really active," said Glisson.
Restaurants Hablo Taco, Thai Thani and Oishi Sushi closed down months in advance in preparation for the demolition.
Since Channelside Bay Plaza opened in 2001, several businesses have filled its spaces, but the plaza struggled to lure residents and tourists.
Officials with the Yacht Starship Cruises, which shares a parking lot with the plaza, are hopeful that the redevelopment will be a positive change for their business as well.
"People come to our dinner cruise, and they may stop by Channelside for a beverage before or after. They're coming to downtown Tampa for an overall evening or daytime experience, so the more they have around them that is in walking distance is better for everybody," said Katie Edmiston, Vice President of Marketing for the Yacht Starship.
The waterfront park is expected to open in late January of 2018.
It is part of the $3 billion Water Street Project launched by SPP that will ultimately bring condos, offices and retails to the waterfront as well.
Tenants in the remaining wings of the plaza, including Splittsville, Hooters, Wet Willies, Cold Stone and Precinct Pizza, will remain open.
Long-term plans show the entire plaza could be demolished, according to SPP officials. A date for the additional demolition has not been set.
SPP officials would first have to get approval from Port Tampa Bay, who owns the land.