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Representatives of Benderson Development, Taubman Centers and Manatee and Sarasota counties participated in the groundbreaking ceremony.
East County Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012 5 years ago

Mall Madness: Construction for a mega mall begins

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

EAST COUNTY — For East County resident Sally Schule, Monday afternoon was a bit like being at the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games.

As she stood on a bare patch of land just west of Cattlemen Road, watching dump trucks and bulldozers pushing earth far in the background, Schule, general manager of Southgate Mall’s Saks Fifth Avenue, turned her attention to the shovels and dirt just a few yards away.

Almost exactly two years from this day, she will see a vision fulfilled — the opening of The Mall at University Town Center, where her Saks store will be one of three anchor tenants.

Elected officials, community members and business representatives joined officials from Taubman Centers and Benderson Development Oct. 15, as they gathered to formally break ground on The Mall at University Town Center, a mega-mall project that will bring a regional shopping destination to the East County.

“This is an exciting time for customers and our associates,” said Schule. “We have been talking about expanding for several years. Of course, we cannot wait. Two years will fly so quickly. I like to look at it by the number of weeks. It’s really only 104 weeks.”

Located at the southwest corner of Cattlemen Road and University Parkway, The Mall at University Town Center will be an 880,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art, two-level enclosed mall. The $315 million project is slated to open at 10 a.m. Oct. 16, 2014, and include more than 100 specialty stores and restaurants, of which at least 50% will be new to the area.

Saks, which will be doubling in size when it moves from its current Southgate Mall location to University Town Center, will be expanding its designer offerings and opening a men’s department as part of the change, Schule said. Other anchor tenants include Dillard’s and Macy’s, which will have 180,000- and 160,000-square-foot stores, respectively. No other tenants have been announced at this time.

Bill Taubman, chief operating officer for Taubman Centers, said the mall will have an open design with plenty of light and will utilize the best technologies to make it more efficient than any of its other mall destinations.

“I promise you’re not going to be disappointed,” he said. “(This mall will) represent the future of shopping.”

Taubman said his company has been looking at the site for more than eight years and was pleased to be chosen by Benderson Development to partner in development of the project. Although Benderson is doing initial site preparation work, Taubman will be managing construction of the mall, as well as leasing for it.
Additional tenants, Taubman said, will be announced closer to the mall’s opening, likely at three intervals — at one year, six months and one month from opening.

“We always love groundbreakings, but we love openings even more,” he said. “A groundbreaking is having a promise, and in an opening, we have realization.”

Benderson Development President Randy Benderson commended the vision of his late father, Nate Benderson, for the barren stretch of land that is now home to the Super Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and other retailers, and soon home to the mega mall. He also thanked the community for its support of the project and said the mall will be an economic driver for the region.

“It will keep local shoppers here,” he said. “And it will attract shoppers and tourists (to our area).

Mark Chait, executive director of leasing for Benderson Development, agreed, adding the mall will bring more than 2,000 permanent jobs to the area, as well as about 1,000 construction jobs.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

By The Numbers
500 — Number of hotel rooms associated with the project
1,000 — Number of construction-related jobs the project will bring to the area
2,000 — Approximate number of permanent jobs the mall will bring, once open
5,000 — Approximate number of jobs created, in total, by all Benderson’s University Parkway-corridor shopping plazas
880,000 — In square feet, the size of The Mall at University Town Center
100,000,000 — In dollars, estimated amount the mall and aggregate Benderson properties will bring in annually in sales tax revenue
315,000,000 — Cost, in dollars, of development for The Mall at University Town Center 

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