UNIVERSITY PARK -- More restaurants and retail are coming to University Park, including Culver's Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers, as part of the Town Center at University Groves project.
Dirt is beginning to move along University Parkway west of Tuttle Avenue in South Manatee this week as commercial space specialist Casto is working to finalize leases on several tenants. Casto's goal is to deliver the units to tenants by November, said leasing agent Massimo Rastrelli.
Some of the tenants attracted to University Groves are coming there to be close to the new Mall at University Town Center, expected to open Oct. 16, he said.
"I think the projects at University Town Center has so many tenants and are facing so many roadblocks and exclusions that some of the retailers that don't have to be right at the intersection or mall are willing to work with us," said Rastrelli, who added that Casto is competitively pricing its units against rival Benderson Development, which owns much
of the commercial space along the University Parkway corridor.
University Groves also includes 149 single family homes, 338-unit multifamily homes, 110,000 square feet of office space, 270,645 square feet of commercial space, which includes a 120-room hotel, a 200-unit independent living retirement home, a 120-resident group care home and a 80-bed residential treatment center that provides diagnostic or therapeutic services for physical injuries or memory care.
The timing of the retail center's opening in conjunction with the mall is coincidental, he said. The bulk of the tenants aim to be open for the start of the tourist and holiday shopping seasons in November, Rastrelli said, and are starting to come on board with the new home construction.
"I think the small cities behind our project at University Groves plus another 300 units that D.R. Horton is putting there is going to help us put tenants in those spaces," Rastrelli said. Horton also has approval to build 133 homes at its neighboring property University Groves West on about 49 acres.
Culver's, the first major tenant to sign onto University Groves, is a Wisconsin favorite expanding throughout Florida.
Founded in Sauk City, Wis., just west of Madison, the burger and custard stand has grown to become the largest frozen custard chain in the country since its start in 1984. Culver's has 450 restaurants in 21 states, mainly in the Midwest, and has three locations in Florida -- Fort Myers, Naples and Port Charlotte -- with the University Park and Estero restaurants coming on board this year.
While the custard is self explanatory, the ButterBurger is named for the burger's buns, which are buttered on the top of the bun and lightly grilled to a toast, according to the company's history. The chain also serves up another Wisconsin favorite, cheese curds.
The University Park location, 2605 University Parkway, is expected to open in early April, said Paul Pitas, a spokesman for Culver's. The 4,466-square-foot restaurant has construction worth $830,000, according to the building permit issued by Manatee County. McCon Building Corp., from Highland, Wis., is the general contractor.
Another business, Production Tool & Supply Co., has also signed a lease at the project, according to court records. The Warren, Mich., company, is one of the top distributors in the country of industrial tools, according to its website. Rastrelli expects to announce additional tenants in the coming weeks.
Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.