Mall at University Town Center projected to bring $500 million in sales revenue

dgraham@bradenton.comJanuary 14, 2013 

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Construction is underway at the site of The Mall at University Town Center, a new Benderson development at University Parkway and Interstate 75 in Sarasota. The mall will be home to more than 100 stores and restaurants.GRANT JEFFERIES/Bradenton Herald

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The earth is moving for Benderson Development as construction begins on the Mall at University Town Center where projections estimate $500 million in sales revenue to come from 680,000 square feet of retail space.

The company is building the fashion shopping destination with Taubman Centers at the southwest corner of I-75 and University Parkway, just south of the Manatee-Sarasota county line.

"This is the earth work for what will impact the area tremendously," said Mark Chait, Benderson's executive director of leasing, Southeast. "The mall will open Oct. 16, 2014. It will be the single largest development in southwest Florida and it sits right here in our back yard."

The 1.5 million square feet under development also includes 220,000 feet of retail space, 500 hotel rooms and 1,750 residential units, according to Chait.

"When you look at it, we have a lot of retail tenants, but we have medical offices as tenants. We have professional offices as tenants. We have a lot of construction jobs being created. There's a lot of jobs being created and there's a tremendous amount of commerce," he said, surveying the massive growth under Benderson's leadership in the University Parkway corridor that divides Manatee and Sarasota counties.

In the already-developed area bordering the mall there are a Super Target and a number of other retail stores. "This is the beginning of University Town Center. Everything built here presently is leased. There are no vacancies," he said.

The Mall at University Town Center will be a two-level, enclosed mall featuring an 80,000-square-foot Saks Fifth Avenue, a 180,000-square-foot Dillard's and a 160,000-square-foot Macy's. The $315 million shopping center will include more than 100 specialty stores and restaurants, approximately half of which are anticipated to be new to the market.

"Retailer response to The Mall at University Town Center has been tremendous," said Taubman Chief Operating Officer William Taubman. "We will feature many distinctive retailers not found anywhere else in the local market. The shopping center will offer a distinctive collection of upscale fashion and lifestyle retailers as well as sit-down restaurants."

Taubman Centers is an S&P MidCap 400 Real Estate Investment Trust engaged in the ownership, management and/or leasing of 28 regional, super regional and outlet shopping centers in the U.S. and Asia.

In fact, on Dec. 19, Taubman added 49 percent interest to take complete ownership of Tampa's International Plaza from CSAT, LP. The $437 million purchase price for CSAT, LP's interest in the center consists of $275 million of cash and approximately $162 million of beneficial interest in debt.

Chait said, however, that the Mall at University Town Center will differ significantly from International Mall. He compared it more to the Mall at Millenia in Orlando.

"The Mall at University Town Center solidifies the (Manatee-Sarasota) University Boulevard area as the premier shopping destination in Southwest Florida," said Randy Benderson, president of Benderson Development Company. "The shopping center, in conjunction with the Nathan Benderson Rowing Facility, will be a world-class destination and a tremendous community benefit for generations to come."

"The Mall at University Town Center will be a legacy project for Sarasota County," said Christine Robinson, Sarasota County Commission Chair. "It's an economically diverse development offering new jobs and new job opportunities. The mall was created by a visionary public-private partnership and based on a sustainable concept that will become a national benchmark for combining a world-class rowing and recreational facility with a world-class commercial and residential center."

Nathan Benderson Park is immediately adjacent to University Town Center.

More than $40 million is committed to the facility's future development, including 2,200 meter racing lanes and straight shorelines by 2013, coaching lanes, wave attenuation, a multi-function boathouse and athlete training center, starting huts and finish towers, grand stands and a state-of-the art boat maintenance and testing facility. Chait pointed out that construction is ongoing on "regatta island" - an Olympic Village type setting that will provide facilities for events including a viewing and entertainment platform.

Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7024.

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