Business briefs:

April 26, 2014 

UNIVERSITY PARK -- More stores are focusing on the Mall at University Town Center as LensCrafters is the latest retailer to join a growing list of tenants.

LensCrafters filed for a building permit application Thursday with Sarasota County for a space inside the 880,000-square-foot mall being built on Cattlemen Road at University Parkway.

LensCrafters started in 1983 promoting custom eyeglasses in an hour and in 1995 introduced Duralens, to be twice as scratch resistant compared to regular plastic frames. The company added Ray-Ban prescription lenses to their repertoire in 2012. The company was founded by Dean Butler, a Procter & Gamble manager, in Mason, Ohio. Luxottica Group, an Italian company, now owns LensCrafters along with Pearle Vision, Sunglass Hut, Ray-Ban and Oakley.

LensCrafters has locations on 1st Street in Bradenton near the DeSoto Square mall and Westfield's Southgate and Sarasota Square malls.

LensCrafters will join trendy eyewear company Edward Beiner along with Macy's, Dillard's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Apple. The mall is a partnership between Michigan-based Taubman Centers and University Park's Benderson Development Co.

Intertape Polymer Group hires new CFO

Intertape Polymer Group Inc., which has offices in Sarasota and Canada, has named Jeffrey Crystal as its new Chief Financial Officer.

Crystal who will join the company April 28, has more than 17 years of experience in finance, human resources, information technology and purchasing. He will take over as CFO on May 9.

Manatee and Sarasota office vacancies decline

MANATEE -- Office vacancies dropped slightly in Manatee and Sarasota counties during the first quarter of the year even as demand for downtown office space in Bradenton and Sarasota stayed virtually the same at the end of 2013.

According to statistics generated by the economic development corporations in the two counties, overall office vacancies in buildings and office parks larger than 10,000 square feet dropped to 17.4 percent in Sarasota County and 17.67 percent in Manatee County. That's down from the last quarter of 2013, when Sarasota County was at 18.08 and Manatee registered 17.86 percent.

Areas seeing the biggest improvements were Venice and North Port. However, both cities still find more than 34 percent of their offices vacant.

In Manatee County, University Parkway office space filled better in the first three months of the year. The vacancy rate dropped more than two percentage points in that area to 7.54 percent.

Downtown Bradenton and Sarasota remain highly disparate in their office climates. Sarasota ended

the quarter with 11.7 percent of its office space empty, while Bradenton was at 29.28 percent.

The area with the lowest office space vacancy was the Manatee portion of Lakewood Ranch at 7.06 percent. That's up from 5.64 percent last quarter.

In Manatee County, lease rates were up slightly over the end of 2013, jumping to an average of $16.71 per square foot according to data collected by Sarasota commercial realty Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT. Sarasota County was roughly flat at $15.25.

-- Herald staff reports

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