UNIVERSITY PARK -- The Mall at University Town Center kicked off its one-year anniversary celebration Wednesday as Benderson Development Co. announced plans for land surrounding the mall, including new hotels and an entertainment district anchored by a movie theater.
"People always want to know what's coming next," said Mark Chait, executive
director of leasing-southeast for Benderson Development Co. "And that's how our company thinks: 'What's the future?'"
Development on land around the mall, which is 98 percent leased, is next for Benderson, Chait said. The mall created 1,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, according to mall general manager Octavio Ortiz. The mall has added 25 stores since opening Oct. 16, 2014, including 18 since January. Additions include Anthropologie, Arhaus, Burger & Beer Joint, Fit2Run, Free People, H&M, Lucky, Kids Foot Locker, Microsoft and Yo! Sushi.
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"And this is not the end," Ortiz said.
The term "University Town Center" is often used just to refer to the Mall at UTC, but "University Town Center" refers to the mall and all of its surrounding area.
A building for Daily Eats and the Fresh Kitchen, two Tampa-based restaurants, is under construction at the Shoppes at University Town Center just north of the mall.
A 19,000-square-foot building is under construction west of the mall at the Square at University Town Center. Construction began without any tenants signed, Chait said, and the building is now completely leased with Oak & Stone restaurant, Keke's Breakfast Cafe, Newk's Eatery and Hand & Stone massage and facial spa. Tenants will be able to open by the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016.
On the south side of the mall along Cattlemen Road, about 40,000 square feet of space is being developed. Some space is leased already to tenants including the Rusty Bucket restaurant, Menchie's frozen yogurt, a day spa and J-Pan Restaurant of Sarasota.
The 133-room Homewood Suites hotel along Cattlemen Road and south of the Mall at UTC broke ground a couple of months ago and will open in fall 2016. Three more hotels are planned for land east of the mall. Benderson has not determined the brand of the other three hotels.
Benderson hopes a new movie theater will anchor an entertainment district for University Park. Walkability is an important feature for the district, Chait said.
"It's a true mixed-use product," Chait said. "There will be housing eventually on the site and there will be office space as well as more retail."
Kevin Cooper, vice president of public policy and Sarasota Tomorrow initiatives for the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, said the proposed entertainment district would add a long-desired attribute to University Town Center.
"It would really be a positive," Cooper said. "We have looked at that for 10 to 20 years, how to make walkable communities. When a family stays here for a rowing event it creates an all-in-one approach where you can walk your family over to do some shopping and then see a movie."
Developing walkable communities is important for University Town Center and Sarasota County to remain competitive as tourist destinations. Cooper described the Siesta Key area as an example of a successful walkable community where families can "park the car once and have a full day of shopping and enjoyment."
"I think walkability speaks to the current climate and demand of consumers," Cooper said. "People aren't necessarily wanting a one-stop shop, but people want to be able to hit multiple different things and have a robust experience without having to travel necessarily."
Benderson's big plans are always subject to change.
"Everything evolves," Chait said. "Until the minute we put the shovel in the ground, we're always retooling and evaluating site plans."
Janelle O'Dea, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095 or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.