Saks, Macy's and Dillard's anchors for University Town Center

SARASOTA — The long awaited University Town Center will feature Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Dillard’s as its three anchor tenants, the developers announced today.

The $315 million, two-story enclosed shopping mall will house a total of 115 stores under 880,000 square feet along University Parkway near Interstate 75 in north Sarasota. More than half of those retailers will be new to the market.

Taubman Centers Inc., a publicly traded commercial developer based in Michigan, has partnered with Benderson Development on the project. Each will own 50 percent of the mall.

The shopping center, which was first introduced to Sarasota County Planning Department in 1992, is now slated to begin construction later this year with an opening of fall 2014.

“The mall at University Town Center will be one of the premiere shopping destinations on the west coast of Florida,” said Robert Taubman, chairman, president and CEO of Taubman Centers. “And it will be the preferred shopping destination in the Sarasota region for locals and visitors alike.”

University Town Center will be anchored by a 80,000-square-foor Saks Fifth Avenue, 160,000-square-foot Macy’s and 180,000-square-foot Dillard’s.

The blueprint calls for a fourth department store to be added in the future.

The latest site plans filed with Sarasota County this month feature one of the anchors on each side of the mall and the third in the middle. The parking will surround the shopping center, which will require the county to finish its Cattlemen Road extension project to serve as its main entrance.

Previous plans filed in 2007 called for four anchors, with a more spread out design, records show.

Benderson’s original concept also included a housing commercial office component to be built at the same time as the mall. It’s unclear if or when those aspects will be developed.

Details on a second phase [--] two hotels and an additional 200,000 square feet of retail [--] are expected to be submitted for county approval soon.

Taubman will be responsible for development, management and leasing of the center. The company also owns or has co-developed other retail malls in Florida including International Plaza in Tampa, Waterside Shops at Pelican Bay in Naples and Mall at Millenia in Orlando.

“This represents the perfect addition to the Gulf Coast’s finest retail corridor,” said Randy Benderson, president of Benderson Development. “This extraordinary investment in Southwest Florida’s future will exceed anyone’s expectations.”

Taubman collected an average companywide rent of $45.22 per square foot last year, with a 90.7 percent occupancy rate. The firm recorded $644.9 million in total revenue in 2011, a 3 percent increase from the previous year.

The company’s income from continuing operations grew 15 percent last year to reach $141.4 million. Unlike Taubman, Benderson is a private developer.

“We were originally involved in the project a few years ago, and with the economy, everything was put on hold,” said Karen Mac Donald, director of communications at Taubman. “We’re all set to move forward now.”

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman

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