Mall at University Town Center GM teases about Nordstrom

cschelle@bradenton.comMarch 19, 2014 

Mall at University Town Center Octavio "Taz" Ortiz told a Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance luncheon Wednesday that the mall could add a fourth anchor one day. CHARLES SCHELLE/Bradenton Herald


Lululemon to open store in Taubman-leased mall

UNIVERSITY PARK -- University Town Center's general manager told a packed crowd Wednesday that the new mall is on track to open Oct. 16 and could one day see a fourth anchor.

General Manager Octavio "Taz" Ortiz told attendees at the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance luncheon that Taubman Centers has not missed an opening in 20 years and leasing is continuing to pick up to fill the 100-plus spaces in the upscale mall at Cattlemen Road and University Parkway. Ortiz mentioned Nordstrom as a favorite among those watching progress on themall, but made no promises about the fourth anchor.

While the mall has officially announced Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's and Dillard's will come along with five of the six restaurants, building permits are revealing other stores that are on their way, including Pottery Barn and Omega as two of the latest additions.

Athletic clothing retailer Lululemon Athletica is the latest addition. The Vancouver-based retailer has sent out request for bids for a 3,000-square-foot store inside the new mall. The company has a showroom in Sarasota's Burns Court neighborhood that is only open Thursdays through Saturdays. A Lululemon spokesman did not return a request for comment Wednesday regarding the Sarasota showroom's future in relation to the new store.

Even though the mall isn't fully pleased, Taubman is keeping an eye on the mall's growth. Taubman has development rights for a fourth anchor to be built at the 880,000-square-foot, $330 million mall, Ortiz said.

"One of the biggest questions I always get is about the Nordstrom's," Ortiz said. "We have the availability to expand to a fourth anchor in the future. That's not saying it's going to happen, but we do have the availability to expand to a fourth anchor."

Nordstrom opened a Nordstrom Rack in November in Benderson's Shoppes at University Town Center on Cooper Creek Boulevard, a sign that Nordstrom could build a full-service department store nearby.

In November, Nordstrom opened a Nordstrom Rack in Benderson's Shoppes at University Town Center on Cooper Creek Boulevard, often a sign that Nordstrom may build a full-service department store nearby. The department store was slated to be added as part of the mall before the project was halted during the Great Recession. Since then, Taubman entered into a 50-50 partnership with Benderson and the Forbes Co. of Michigan exited the partnership. That prompted the partners to rework some of its expectations for retailers.

Ortiz told the Herald nothing is currently in the works for a new anchor and not timeline is available.

"We never said they are coming and we never said they aren't coming," Ortiz said.

That space for a fourth anchor, likely the size of a department store, can be built adjacent to Saks Fifth Avenue, Ortiz told the Herald. It does not necessarily need to be attached to the mall.

The demand for more retail is there, Ortiz said. The mall's trade market of 1.2 million people with 111,000 households earning more than $100,000 ranges from St. Petersburg south to Ft. Myers.

The trade market's leasable square feet per capita is 4.5, which is 36 percent below the national average of 7.1 square feet, Ortiz said. Florida has 7.2 square feet per capita while the Sarasota-Bradenton market has 5.2 square feet.

"It's an underserved market when it come to shopping," he said. "I think people are excited for another place to come to."

As for the rest of the mall, leasing will continue to the last minute, Ortiz said.

"Some of these stores only take 90 days to build out," he said.

So far, concrete is poured for the mall's second level. Mall management is expected to move into permanent offices in 60 days, he said.

Sarasota County's Planning and Development Services isn't being overwhelmed with additional work from the mall and staff doesn't plan on reaching out to Manatee County to help process permits, said Curt Preisser, spokesman for Sarasota County Government.

A spattering of other details Ortiz shared:

• Mall officials were seeking out high-end tile and after identifying some in South Africa, decided it was too dangerous to travel there to buy it, so instead Israeli and German tile will be installed next month.

• Drivers on Interstate 75 will see a deep blue light shine through the mall's skylights at night as part of a dramatic LED system that will also shine white light on wooden louvered ceiling tiles.

• Every chair in the mall will have a charging station for electronics

• The grading of the parking lot creates direct access to the second level of the mall in certain areas.

• Mall tenants are given green building construction guidelines

• Sixteen electric car charging stations are planned with ability to add another 16 in the future

• Internal shuttle system is being planned to connect Nathan Benderson Park with mall and other retail

Charles Schelle, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter@ImYourChuck.

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