ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Construction on a new food hall concept in St. Petersburg began Monday with a groundbreaking ceremony for “Central Park St. Pete.”
The HI Hospitality Group broke ground on the new location at 551 Central Avenue in St. Pete. The Woolworth building in the city will undergo the transformation into the new five-story concept.
Tampa chef and restauranteur Natalia Levey will renovate the space that housed the former Dome Grill into the new eatery. The new business is called Central Park Food Hall, in honor of Levey’s time in culinary school in New York City and the hall’s location on Central Avenue in St. Pete.
When 8 On Your Side spoke to Levey in Feb. 2020, the food hall’s concept was initially three stories, complete with a rooftop bar. It has since grown.
“Due to the pandemic we had to pause and reevaluate the project. There [are] a lot of exciting things coming with this. We have definitely expanded the project,” Levy said.
Levy said the HI Hospital Group recently discovered that Central Park Food Hall is able to house an additional basement concept. An event space will be added above “Kojo,” the group’s rooftop restaurant and bar (with an initial location located in Sarasota,) bringing the total space to five levels, including the first-floor food court and “Speaks Clam Bar” on the second level.
David Roth is the beverage director for HI Hospitality. He worked in New York City for eight years before moving to the Tampa Bay area to work on this project. He’s excited to work on multiple concepts throughout the food hall.
“Hopefully going to have something for everyone on each different floor. I think the idea would be come to the first floor and maybe get pulled into or drawn into the other concepts and maybe winding up in the smaller cocktail bar in the basement, which is going to be really, fairly unique,” he said.
Roth said “bottom line” is, they’re looking to make delicious, unique drinks for everyone of age to enjoy. He and his colleagues get inspiration from everyone they have worked for and the people they have worked with, in addition to art, music and other creative aspects.
“Just doing the most current application for cocktails, whether it be unusual flavor combinations or culinary techniques that usually you find in the back of the house that would be used for the bar application. So just fun, fun, fun stuff,” he said.
While many businesses struggled during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Levey and the hospitality group were able to take a step back to reevaluate, coming back stronger than ever.
“In Russia we have an expression. ‘You measure seven times, you cut once.’ So having the break has given us an opportunity to spend more time measuring and really [take] full advantage of this project,” she said.
As of Nov. 15, there is no projected opening date for Central Park Food Hall.
“We want to be fully present in the moment with construction and industry delays,” Levey said. “There’s an aggressive schedule that we will try and follow and we will try and be optimistic, but we just want to be present with every moment of this process.”
Roth said he’s most excited to see guests’ faces when they try the different flavors of drinks and dishes at Central Park Food Hall.
“I think when they experience all the hospitality on all the levels, the different environments in the different restaurants, the atmosphere, the food, the sights, the smells, and just when all that hits, I just think that’s the big home run, is just when you can check all those boxes,” he said.