Mall at University Town Center offers sneak peek for charity

jbartolone@bradenton.comApril 17, 2014 

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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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UNIVERSITY PARK -- Shoppers will be get a sneak peek at the new Mall at University Town Center the night before it opens -- and help 10 local charities in the process.

The Sneak Peek Charity Preview will be from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Oct. 15. The $100 admission includes valet parking, food, wine, beer, live entertainment and a chance to explore the 880,000-square-foot mall now under construction at Interstate 75 and University Parkway.

Many of the mall's more than 100 stores and restaurants will open and offer exclusive discounts, said Octavio Ortiz, mall general manager.

"There's only going to be one opportunity you can experience the mall before it opens," Ortiz said.

Guests will receive a $20 mall gift card when checking in plus a program guiding them to all store and beverage stations.

All proceeds will go to 10 charities, including the Food Bank of Manatee, Manatee Performing Arts Center, Nate's Honor Animal Rescue and the South Florida Museum & Bishop Planetarium in Manatee County.

Other charities benefitting from the preview include: All Faiths Food Bank, Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota County, The Circus Arts Conservatory/Sailor Circus,

Florida Studio Theater, Girls Inc. of Sarasota County and Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium.

Lakewood Ranch-based Nate's Honor, which runs a retail shop and animal adoption center in a shopping center across the street from the mall, already had a wait list of about 50 people wanting tickets before they went on sale Wednesday.

"We're very ecstatic about it," said Dari Ogelsby, executive director at Nate's Honor. "We've been waiting and watching the mall go up."

The mall expects to sell 2,500 tickets, Ortiz said. Taubman Centers, the Michigan-based company handling mall leasing, has held similar events at new malls in other markets and the response has been "phenomenal," Ortiz said.

Tickets can be purchased online at themallatuniversitytowncenter.com/events where you'll be directed to individual charity links you can choose to support.

Open mall stores will include Macy's, Dillard's, Saks Fifth Avenue, American Eagle Outfitters, Gap, Pottery Barn and an Apple Store. Restaurants include Capital Grille, Cheesecake Factory and more.

The $315 million mall is a joint partnership between Taubman and Manatee County's Benderson Development.

Jason Bartolone, East Manatee Editor, can be reached at 941-745-7011. Follow him on Twitter @JasonBartolone.

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