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Sarasota Thursday, May. 11, 2017 4 months ago

Changes in store for Beneva shopping centers

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Benderson Development is one of three property owners pursuing changes for commercial plazas near the intersection of Beneva and Fruitville roads.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Four years after Sweetbay Supermarket closed at 180 N. Beneva Road, Benderson Development Co. plans to overhaul the grocery space soon — with a big name rumored as the eventual tenant.

On April 28, Benderson filed a two-phase redevelopment plan with the city for the Town and Country Plaza shopping center, located at the northwest corner of Beneva and Fruitville Road. During the first phase, the developer plans to knock down the old Sweetbay building and build a 46,000-square-foot grocery store on the same site.

Benderson did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding its plans for the property. Ownership of the 24.7-acre shopping center site is divided between two groups. Representatives for Gator Investments, the Miami Beach company that owns the portion of the property that Kmart recently vacated, are under the impression that a Publix will ultimately move into the grocery space.

“From what we understand, Publix is going into the Sweetbay property,” said Dina Bartoletta, vice president of retail leasing for Gator Investments.

Publix officials could not confirm any plans for Town and County Plaza. 

Regardless of the tenant, Benderson’s redevelopment plans are a sign of vitality for a shopping center that dates back to the 1970s.

Although Bealls department store remains a major tenant, the departure of Sweetbay and Kmart could be seen as a sign the property is languishing. When Urban Design Studio Director Karin Murphy began the work of writing a form-based zoning code for the city in 2013, she singled out the Beneva-Fruitville corridor as an area that could benefit from regulations focused on creating a more urban setting.

The second phase of Benderson’s redevelopment plans involves the creation of a retail building closer to Beneva Road that will not exceed 5,000 square feet. The documents say the building will include 150 seats, and the end user will operate from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, employing 10 people.

Just north of the Town and Country Plaza, changes could be coming to another shopping center. The owners of Sarasota Commons, located at 935 N. Beneva Road, are advertising a potential expansion opportunity as large as 18,000 square feet on the north end of the property.

Right now, Publix occupies a 36,464-square-foot grocery space in Sarasota Commons. Max Puyanic, general partner of the Sarasota Commons ownership group, said Publix’s lease allows the store to exercise five-year options if it wants to remain a tenant. Should the store leave in the near future, Puyanic said the owners have no concern about filling that space.

In the short-term, Puyanic said there are no plans for significant changes to the property. Taking a longer vision, though, he said the shopping center could be completely redeveloped, depending on the community’s needs.

“Its location across from the Bobby Jones Golf Complex and its proximity to The Meadows provides an ideal opportunity to serve neighborhood retail needs and also offers the potential for mixed-use development,” Puyanic said in an email.

He said the ownership group is following the form-based code development, which is factoring into its long-term planning. Ultimately, the future of these shopping centers will be guided by the evolving dynamics of the retail sector.

“Our vision of the property is driven by the changes taking place in Sarasota and the demand in the marketplace,” Puyanic said.

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