EAST COUNTY — Since mid-July, an orchestra of contractors has worked to turn a mess of mock-ups, metal beams and other materials into a high-end shopping destination.
What once looked like a skeleton is beginning to look like what the Mall at University Town Center will be.
The project is on track for its Oct. 16 opening. Macy’s — with its trademark red star logo and glass windows visible from University Parkway —and fellow anchors Saks Fifth Avenue and Dillard’s continue to build their own spaces. Construction on a circular road that will connect access to the stores is nearly finished.
“There’s a lot going on and the opening is coming up fast,” said Octavio Ortiz, general manager of the Mall at UTC. “It’s very rewarding to see the mall come out of the ground to what it is today.”
Ortiz, an employee of Michigan-based Taubman Centers, which is co-developing the $315 million mall at the southeast corner of University Parkway and Cattlemen Road with Benderson Development, has worked out of a temporary trailer office on-site since September.
Because he just received a temporary certification of occupancy, Ortiz will be able to work out of his permanent office on the second floor of the mall — with a view of Interstate 75 and the travelers from Tampa to Naples who will come there — by May 1.
When he and his staff, including an already hired marketing and sponsorship director and facilities director, work from the office, they can park in a parking lot — not on gravel.
Crews are laying asphalt for the parking lot, which will have more than 4,000 parking spaces.
The circular road around the center — the main travel node for customers — has made it easier for contractors representing different stores and restaurants to build their spaces.
Also a boon to the contractors: the mall’s main concourse will be “weather tight” by the end of May, meaning the windows and walls will be closed off from the weather.
Right now, when it rains, water enters the inside of the building.
Not that it matters to construction crews. They generally work rain or shine.
Meanwhile, John Eggert, Taubman’s development director for the Mall at UTC, said Saks has already enclosed its building. Macy’s and Dillard’s are pretty close to doing so, as well.
A handful of the mall’s restaurants have also begun work on their spaces.
Restaurants slated for the mall include The Cheesecake Factory, The Capital Grille, Kona Grill, Brio Tuscan Grille and Seasons 52.
Each of the anchors, restaurants and inline tenants builds and designs its own store, inside and out, based on a shell space provided by Taubman.
Eggert says most inline tenants won’t begin building out their spaces until two to three months before the mall opens.
“You can bang out stores in 60 to 90 days,” Eggert said.
While each tenant designs spaces to its needs, the end result will appear seamless.
“We don’t dictate what the tenants do,” Eggert said. “We have very savvy store owners and developers, so there’s a certain trust there. Each store has its own identity, but the mall will be harmonious in its architectural style.”
A key element of the look and feel will be the skylight system that will form the ceiling of the mall’s concourse. Crews have begun work on the system, which will bring in natural light and limit lighting costs, while allowing people looking up at the concourse ceiling to see the sky.
As the major work continues, the tell-tale signs that construction has finished won’t be obvious.
“You’ll see light poles popping up, landscaping and (have) other activity inside the mall you can’t see,” Eggert said.
The Mall at University Town Center will host a “Sneak Peek Charity Preview” Oct. 15, the night before the mall opens. Ten local charities will benefit from the event. The $100 admission ticket entitles guests to free valet parking, complimentary food, wines and beers, live entertainment and a chance to preview the stores. For information on how to order tickets, visit, http://themallatuniversitytowncenter.com/events.
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].