UNIVERSITY PARK -- Talking with folks in the community about the Mall at University Town Center, there's always excitement, and a line that goes something like this:
"I can't wait. I really wish they would bring [insert store or restaurant name here]."Today is your lucky day, because a Taubman Centers official says she is listening.
Part of Karen MacDonald's job as director of communications at Taubman is to track what people are saying and writing online about what stores they want to see at the Mall, set to open Oct. 16, 2014 at University Parkway and Cattleman Road, near Interstate 75.
MacDonald told the Bradenton Herald that leasing agents, development people and the research team visited the area to try and get a sense of what's here already, what works and, most importantly, the restaurants people want and the shops where they want to spend their money. Mall builders, it seems, take to heart what people write online about stores they want to see where they live.
"Oh yeah, we look at that stuff," MacDonald said.
The mall has plenty of space to fill with 115 tenants plus an additional anchor to be named, so suggestions are welcomed. So far, Macy's, Dillard's, Saks Fifth Avenue are the only confirmed tenants.
The suggestions don't necessarily have to be national chains, either.
"We always try to have some local flavor to our shopping centers as well with a handful of local retailers and food specialty stores," MacDonald said.
Some of that research involves nearby retailers that provide data about where shoppers travel from, she added.
Sarasota area residents were recently excited about reports that an Apple store would open at the Westfield Southgate Mall when the shopping center expanded in 2011, only to feel spurned when it didn't happen.
Is that something shoppers here still want? Maybe a Google store instead, or in addition?
This mall might have had a similar moment with Bass Pro Shops, after the store apparently printed in a catalog last year that it would be coming to Sarasota, leading many in the community to speculate the store would be coming to UTC. Bass Pro told WWSB, who first reported the printing mishap, that they had nothing to announce at that time.
The first round of tenants will be announced in October, about a year before the mall opens, MacDonald said.
Now is your chance to make an impact on your local mall.
Visit the Up in Your Business blog at bradenton-herald-business.blogspot.com, and post your suggestions. I'll pass them along to MacDonald so she knows that Manatee County shoppers will put their money where their mouth is.
Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck.