SARASOTA -- Nordstrom officials have finally come out about their Sarasota-Manatee plans: The retail chain announced Thursday that they plan to open a Nordstrom Rack in the Shoppes at University Town Center.
The store will be about 35,000 square feet and is set to open this fall.
Nordstrom Rack is the outlet division of Nordstrom, carrying discounted apparel, accessories and shoes. The Rack offers the same labels carried in the full-line stores.
The Rack will occupy the vacant former Circuit City space, located at the intersection of Interstate 75 and University Parkway.
"We're excited to have found this terrific location that will enable us to bring the Rack treasure hunt experience to our customers in the Sarasota-Bradenton metro area and throughout Sarasota County," said Geevy Thomas, president of Nordstrom Rack.
Other stores nearby in the Shoppes at University Town Center include Marshalls, Ross, Shoe Carnival and Pier 1 Imports.
The project is being handled by Sarasota-based Benderson Development, a real estate company whose portfolio includes retail, industrial and hotel properties.
Mark Chait, the executive director of Benderson Development, says Nordstrom will be a tremendous asset to the community.
"This retailer is not in this market at all and will offer an exciting assortment," Chait said. "It will add an element to the shopping experience that does not currently exist in the market."
Chait also believes that the Nordstrom Rack will help draw other retailers to the area.
"Success tends to breed success, and shops and restaurants like to congregate together," he said. "This plaza has tremendous synergy."
Although confirmation on the new Nordstrom Rack was just released Thursday morning, the Lakewood Ranch area is already reacting positively.
"Every time a retailer is added, it receives a favorable response," Chait said.
The Shoppes at University Center still has some available space, he noted, and they are always actively looking to lease in that area.
Nordstrom also announced its plans to open a Rack in Jacksonville this fall, along with a Nordstrom full-line store opening next year.
Could the installation of a Nordstrom Rack in Sarasota be the sign of a full-line Nordstrom to come?
Maybe someday, but Johnson and Taubman said they do not have plans right now.
Nordstrom still has not confirmed a full-line opening in the future mall on University Parkway, but Colin Johnson, Nordstrom public relations specialist, said that they have not completely written that possibility off.
"We are open to discussion about serving Sarasota with a full-line Nordstrom store in the future, and we have great relations with Taubman. Opening a store there could be a possibility some day, but we are not planning on it now," Johnson said.
Taubman had a deal with Nordstrom when the proj
ect was first under development in 2007, but that deal was terminated when the mall was put on hold as the economy took a nose dive.
The mall is being anchored by Saks 5th Avenue, Macys and Dillards, and there could possibly be a fourth anchor.
"We are contemplating an addition of another anchor store in the future, but right now planning to open as three-anchor center," said Karen McDonald, the director of communications at Taubman.
As far as the opening of a fourth anchor, McDonald said there is no current timeline, and it depends on interest from potential anchors, maybe even a Nordstrom.
"In 2008, we were announced as a three-anchor center, and we are planning on keeping it that way for the time being," McDonald said.
While McDonald said she could not speculate about Nordstrom, she said they have a terrific relationship.
"Nordstrom has gone into many of our projects, and it is going into one of our malls currently under construction in Puerto Rico, but I could not say which future locations they may or may not go into," McDonald said.
In the meantime, Johnson believes that Sarasota-Manatee is a good fit for the Rack. Nordstrom is a selective chain and only operates 117 full-line stores and 121 Nordstrom Racks nationwide.
"It's a community that we want to serve better. It is great to have the opportunity to bring the Rack experience and savings to Sarasota, and we feel fortunate that everything fell into place," Johnson said.
Johnson added that Nordstrom has a lot of loyal customers in the area.
"Florida overall has been a terrific growth opportunity, and we have been drawn to Southwest Florida for some time. Opening a Rack is reflective of that," Johnson said.