A dirt mound in the Carillon park sits empty where a Topgolf development is planned.
Although the movement on the project to build a 67,000-square-foot driving range at 220 Carillon Dr. N. seems to have gone radio silent, the project is still moving forward. Topgolf’s website states the golf entertainment complex is “coming soon” but does not state an exact timeline.
Topgolf received approval from the city in November 2019 to build the sports project, which was initially expected to open in 2020. The project has been on hold pending the contractor’s submittal of the notice of commencement. An extension has been granted through April 11, according to Liz Abernethy, director of planning and development services in St. Pete.
Topgolf representatives have not responded to a request for comment regarding the plans. The Topgolf development has been highly controversial, especially in the residential neighborhood of Carillon as the site is across the street from residential developments Back Bay at Carillon and Saxony Place.
The Concerned Residents of Carillon, a group opposed to the construction of a Topgolf facility in their northern St. Petersburg neighborhood, legally challenged the city’s approval of the project, claiming the city didn’t undertake its due diligence and how they’ve been kept in the dark about the plans.
“The entire issue was about raising the awareness of the project. We were not asking for Topgolf to not be built, we are asking for them to go through appropriate processes like every business that has built something sustainable has gone through, and provide us reasonable notice,” Jason Liu, leader and spokesman for Concerned Residents of Carillon, told the St. Pete Catalyst, explaining the residents never received a notice about the proposed project.
In February 2019, Western Reserve, which is a division of insurance giant Aegon, submitted a request to modify the 2012 site plan to allow for the construction of a Topgolf facility. While it was considered to be a “minor modification,” Liu said it is a massive change from the site once being eyed for large office development to an entertainment golf attraction.
The plans for the Topgolf development have not been reviewed by the St. Petersburg City Council, according to the planning department.
Liu’s group has also claimed that it has made multiple requests for public records regarding the site plan, but that the city failed to provide the documents; therefore, it did not meet the standards of an exemption to the Public Records Act. He and the group had set up a GoFundMe, which is still listed as an active account, for raising funds for its legal fees. The current amount raised is $19,000.
Last year, Pinellas County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ramsberger ruled in favor of the City of St. Petersburg and Topgolf in a contentious civil lawsuit brought by the Concerned Residents of Carillon.
“From a legal standpoint, we took this as far as we can. We are disappointed in the outcome,” Liu said.
The planned Topgolf complex would include 450 parking spaces on 12 acres. It would be the second Topgolf facility in the Tampa-St. Pete area.
A Topgolf opened in Brandon in 2014. Topgolf officials previously said the St. Petersburg site would be different than the Brandon site, with a focus on family-friendly activities and significant improvements to lighting and sound systems to minimize the impact on people who live nearby.
Early projections showed the facility would serve approximately 450,000 guests annually and create 400 full- and part-time positions.