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More in store at UTC in Sarasota

Shoppers have more choices along University Parkway corridor

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  • | 9:00 a.m. September 6, 2017
Benderson Development's Director of Florida Leasing Mark Chait says the tenant mix in UTC is impressive for the industry.
Benderson Development's Director of Florida Leasing Mark Chait says the tenant mix in UTC is impressive for the industry.
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Twenty-year-old Ashleigh Gilray not only waits on tables at California Pizza Kitchen, on North Cattlemen Road, but she also goes there when she’s not working.

On a recent visit, she sat eating pizza with her mother, Toni Gilray, of Mill Creek, and grandmother, Anne Marie Dean, of Oak Grove Park.

“We love it here,” Ashleigh Gilray said. “I’m here all the time.”

The women say California Pizza Kitchen is just one fun destination in the area and that the development of the University Town Center corridor is changing the landscape for East County’s shopping scene. Toni Gilray wishes more shopping choices were available off State Road 64, but loves that she can go to the University Parkway corridor to visit a Super Target or Home Goods without having to travel far into Sarasota or west Bradenton.

“Everybody loves all the new shops,” Toni Gilray said.

Anne Marie Dean, Toni Gilray and Ashleigh Gilray (far right) eat lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, where Ashleigh Gilray works. They love the shopping in the UTC area.
Anne Marie Dean, Toni Gilray and Ashleigh Gilray (far right) eat lunch at California Pizza Kitchen, where Ashleigh Gilray works. They love the shopping in the UTC area.

Benderson Development, owner of the UTC plazas along University Parkway and Cattlemen Road, and part owner of The Mall at UTC, has more on the drawing board.

“We’re pleased with the pace,” Benderson’s Director of Leasing Mark Chait said of development along North Cattlemen Road. “We’re thrilled with the tenant mix. When people in the industry come here and look at UTC as a whole and see the depth of the tenant mix, they say ‘Wow.’

"We’re really proud of it.”

Along North Cattlemen Road, specifically, Acropolis Greek Taverna is under constriction, and is slated for a fall opening.

Benderson soon will start construction on two parcels in front of the Homewood Inn and Suites, which opened Aug. 21 at southwest corner of Cattlemen and DeSoto roads. Chait said those retail buildings are going through permitting and will take about eight months to build once permitting is approved.

Benderson also is designing buildings along North Cattlemen Road toward the southern end of the mall. 

“We continue to be excited about what we see happening there,” said California Pizza Kitchen President Chris Morris, adding Florida is the chain’s top market second only to California. “When there’s traffic flow and visibility, that normally means good things for us.”

Morris said California Pizza Kitchen, which opened in January, is performing as expected considering the demographics and area. New businesses will strengthen their profits even more, Morris said.

Gary Callicoat, president of restaurant chain Rusty Bucket, which opened on North Cattlemen Road in January 2016, said the restaurant's proximity to Interstate 75, the University Town Center corridor, Lakewood Ranch and the growth around Nathan Benderson Park make the location attractive for retailers and restauranteurs.

“Visibility and access have been a plus for our location,” he said.

However, both he and Morris said construction at the interchange of University Parkway and Interstate 75 has kept some customers away, but it won’t forever.

“Once the dust settles and everything is done in that area, we believe there’s even more upside than what we see today,” Morris said.

Toni and Ashleigh Gilray echoed that sentiment.  

The diverging diamond traffic pattern through the interchange opened May 21.

Dean said the shopping and restaurant options make the corridor a go-to destination for her.

“It’s just like having a little downtown,” she said. 

Here is a look at what's happening at UTC.


The Shoppes at University Town Center, the plaza at the northeast corner of Cooper Creek Boulevard and University Parkway and home to HomeGoods, Nordstrom Rack and other retailers, is attracting new businesses.

T.J. Maxx will fill a space formerly occupied by Shapes,  making it the third TJX-brand concept in the plaza. The others are HomeGoods and Marshalls.

“There aren’t many plazas that have that,” Benderson Development’s Mark Chait said of having all three TJX brands in the same location. “That’s pretty telling. Obviously, the other two concepts have done well there.”

T.J. Maxx is expected to open around Thanksgiving.

In July, Benderson signed a lease with Butcher’s Mark, a butcher’s shop that specializes in marinated meats. It will be located near Pei Wei.

Benderson also is adding 10,000 square feet to accommodate the new store. The names of the other businesses have not yet been released.

The store Five Below, which offers items for $5 or less, and Three Dogs Bakery both opened in early May at The Shoppes.


Tourist Center Drive, the plaza west of Cooper Creek Boulevard and home to Wendy’s and Ruby Tuesday’s, now is fully leased. On Aug. 17, Scullers Draft House took over the space formerly leased by World of Beer. It offers beer and wine in a concept that plays off the popular rowing venue farther south at Nathan Benderson Park.

Miami-based Stretch Zone, a practitioner-assisted-stretching studio, also has taken over a 1,014-square-foot space and is expected to open this month.


In The Market at UTC, home to Fresh Market and Kohl’s, a fresh juice franchise called Clean Juice, is expected to open in November.


The District at UTC, home to Super Target and Old Navy, among other tenants, also has plenty of changes in progress.

Along the western side of Cattlemen Road, Acropolis Greek Taverna, which will offer Greek cuisine such as gyros,  souvlaki and dolmades, is under construction, with an opening tentatively slated for this month. JPan, a sushi restaurant, is expanding its existing space with a bar area and more seating. Blossom Nail Salon celebrated its grand opening Aug. 27.

Benderson also has signed a lease with Natuzzi Italia, an upscale leather furniture store, and is in the process of designing the building, which will be built on the east side of Cattlemen Road.


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