More retail planned for University Parkway near Home Depot; Oak & Stone restaurant coming

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Citing retail tenant vacancy under 1 percent, University Park-based Benderson Development is adding onto its Square at University Town Center.

The company recently broke ground on a retail building at the west edge of the 240,000-square-foot shopping center. It already has its first tenant, a restaurant, and is looking to cash in on strong demand for storefront space in the massive area it largely controls near the intersection of University Parkway and Interstate 75.

"There's a tremendous amount of demand," said Mark Chait, Benderson executive director of leasing. "We have an extremely low vacancy rate."

Vacancies in that area of University Park are lower than in Manatee and Sarasota counties overall, according to statistics by Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT in Sarasota. In the first quarter, retail vacancies hit 5.7 percent in Sarasota County and 7.4 percent in Manatee County.

At the Square at UTC, one of several similarly named Benderson retail properties in the area, only one 1,600-square-foot retail bay is available for lease. The new building, which will back up to Honore Avenue just north of University Avenue, will

bring nearly 19,000 square feet online.

The permit for Benderson's new building is under review by Manatee County. It is planned for land once occupied by a storm water holding pond and parking lot.

The Oak & Stone restaurant has signed on as an anchor tenant, Chait said. Several tenants are expected to move into the building after it is completed this fall. Benderson is already in talks with several retailers.

Mike Santa Lucia, a partner and owner-operator in Oak & Stone, confirmed his company will locate there. Grown out of a partnership between principals involved in Lucia's Pizza Italian Grill and downtown Sarasota hotspots, Libby's and Louie's Modern, the wood-fired pizzeria will open in the fall.

"We think with the new development in this area, it is the new up-and-coming spot in Sarasota," Santa Lucia said.

Major tenants in the Square at UTC include Home Depot, Staples, CVS and Stonewood Grill & Tavern. Benderson developed the Square in the early 2000s.

Benderson controls four major shopping areas clustered to the west of I-75 along University: the Square, the Shoppes at UTC, the Market at UTC and the District at UTC.

Construction work is also underway at the Shoppes and the District. On the Manatee County side of University, only the Shoppes boast more space -- 354,000 square feet -- than the square, according to property records.

A Daily Eats restaurant is being built at the Shoppes, while the first of several hundred thousand square feet of retail space is in the site work phase at the District. Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern has signed a 10-year lease for 4,200 square feet in the new space. Menchie's Frozen Yogurt has also signed a lease for the building.

Also on the construction docket for Benderson is a Homewood Suites hotel to be built at the southwest corner of North Cattlemen and DeSoto roads. Chait said earth work on the hotel began about a month ago.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twitter @MattAtBradenton.