UNIVERSITY PARK -- Approval for a 40,000-square-foot Whole Foods store at Honore Avenue and University Parkway is just one sign of continuing development in the University Town Center area.
The mall is finishing space for two new stores while the west side of The Mall at University Town Center, the District at University Town Center, has seen more development and traffic in January than other UTC properties.
The new Whole Foods -- a motivating factor in Benderson Development Co.'s recently announced traffic circles plan -- will be larger than the one in downtown Sarasota and will offer salad and soup stations, a juice bar, a bakery and prepared foods.
According to a press release from a firm representing S.J. Collins Enterprises, the property's developer, a Wawa and Mediterranean fast-casual restaurant, Zoe's Kitchen, will join Whole Foods in the center. Six additional spots are available for boutique shops or other fast-casual restaurants.
Beyond growing the University Town Center area, the new Whole Foods will relieve traffic in downtown Sarasota, both on the roads and in the existing Whole Foods store, said Jeff Garrison, partner at S.J. Collins Enterprises.
"This second store will take some of the burden off of the existing, extremely busy and smaller downtown Whole Foods location," Garrison said in a statement. "Demographics show that Whole Foods' customers are traveling from Lakewood Ranch, north Sarasota and Man
atee County to shop at the downtown store."
More restaurants coming
Menchie's Frozen Yogurt in the District, at 257 N. Cattlemen Road, held a grand opening Jan. 16. The icy treat franchise started in a Los Angeles suburb in 2007 and has since grown to more than 200 locations around the world.
Hershel Burden, franchisee for the UTC Menchie's, said all of the activity around the Mall at UTC brought him to open his second Menchie's in the district. He and his wife, Sheri ,own another Menchie's in Fort Myers.
"We saw what was going on out here the Thanksgiving before last," Burden said. Menchie's corporate was already looking at UTC for a franchise opportunity when Burden called and asked if it was available.
"We just happened to drive by at the same time," Burden said. "We knew who all of the co-tenants would be and we looked at the demographics and traffic patterns. Plus Benderson themselves; they're first class and they've been great to work with."
The Burdens hope to open three other Menchie's on the Gulf Coast, but haven't yet decided on locations.
"UTCs aren't everywhere," Burden said.
Next door to Menchie's, the Ohio-based Rusty Bucket Restaurant and Tavern opened Jan. 20. Rusty Bucket brings a full bar and menu, with appetizers, salads, sandwiches and tacos, as well as burgers and pizza. A kid's menu is also available. A BurgerFi restaurant will soon join Menchie's and Rusty Bucket; interior alterations for the upscale burger and hot dog chain began earlier this month in a District plaza spot, according to Sarasota County records.
Even more retail is headed for the District; Work is ongoing at 243 N. Cattlemen Road for a Men's Wearhouse store.
A notice of commencement was filed with Sarasota County on Jan. 15 for a new shell building on the east side of the Mall at UTC. Financial advisers Charles Schwab will occupy at least part of the building listed with a 100 University Town Center address in county records.
The Mall at University Town Center itself has two stores ready to set up shop, said general manager Octavio Ortiz. The Mall at UTC isn't ready to announce the stores yet, he said, but should be able to release the retailers' names in the next month or two.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.