- February 11, 2020
While winter rains delayed the construction of the Owens Fish Camp that is headed for the CASTO development on University Parkway in Lakewood Ranch, the project is going vertical this month.
CASTO Principal Brett Hutchens said the project was shut down for four months due to excessive rainfall, but Earth Trades of Orlando has been back on the job for the last six weeks.
With no further unexpected delays, Hutchens said Owens Fish Camp should be open for business late this year or at the very latest early in 2022.
"We've filed the plans for review with Sarasota County," Hutchens said. "But it's difficult to have in-person meetings now. The owners of the Owens Fish Camp want to move forward.
Owens Fish Camp, which is opening another location to complement its Sarasota restaurant, will be one of three marquee restaurants headed for the development.
Another joining Owens Fish Camp is Olivia's, a modern Italian restaurant that offers the traditional trattoria dishes designed by Chef Chris Ponte. Hutchens said he is very familiar with Ponte, who he calls one of the top chefs in the Tampa region.
Those who dine at Olivia's can watch its staff prepare authentic Italian dough and fresh mozzarella with a working dough room on display.
Ponte studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and opened restaurants around the world before opening Cafe Ponte in Clearwater in 2002. Cafe Ponte, which now is closed, earned awards such as Zagat's “Best Restaurant on the Gulf Coast."
His Ponte Group, formed with his wife, Michelle, and son, J.T. Mahoney, created Olivia's.
Hutchens said Olivia's was the kind of find dining establishment he was seeking for the University Parkway development.
He said a third similar restaurant is close to signing a contract, but he said he was unable to name it. He said it is another fine dining establishment.
The center will have many mixed uses. Along with the find dining restaurants, there will be a 7-11 convenience story and a McDonald's at the west end of the property.
At the southwest corner of the property will be a 40,000 square foot office building being constructed for Roper Technologies, which will move from its Professional Parkway location. Hutchens said the two-story building's design will be very contemporary both on the exterior and interior.
"It will include collaborative spacing" Hutchens said.
The decision to build for Roper Technologies did alter CASTO's overall plans for the site, which originally included space for a hotel. The Roper Technologies building is scheduled to go vertical in October.
Hutchens said the project simply doesn't have enough room for a hotel now so that idea has been scraped. He said Roper's workforce will bring plenty of potential customers to the development each day.
The first building completed at the site is a 77,000 square foot medical office building toward the eastern side of the campus. Hutchens said that "pretty cool building" is 93% leased.
"We have more demand for that building than space," he said.
Two banks and a dental office are among the other tenants headed for the center, although Hutchens said final contracts have yet to be signed.
Along the southern edge of the property will be a specialty grocer. CASTO is in negotiations with two grocers for the spot and is closed to signing a deal.. Once that is done, he said the health and fitness type shops that will be adjacent to the grocer will line up.
While the project is fulls-speed ahead now, it doesn't mean CASTO isn't being careful with every aspect of the construction.
Consider the seven fully adult Oak trees that were moved on the property instead of just being cut down and discarded.
A huge crane and flatbed truck was brought to the property to move each tree, an expensive prospect. Two of the oaks will sit in front of Owens Fish Camp.
"We want to create a special environment," Hutchens said. "This is not a typical shopping center. We thought the inclusion of the trees helps display our vision for the project."
Hutchens talked to Owens Fish Camp's ownership and it wanted the trees saved if possible.
"The survivability of the tree, the trauma, is the challenge" he said. "The survival rate for moving an adult oak is 70 to 75%. You have to start months prior to moving the trees. You have to cut back the roots.
"But I am told they are doing well. They are beginning to bud."
Hutchens said he expects the entire project to be complete by the end of 2022. He said 7-11 and McDonald's will go vertical in the fall.
He said CASTO is being very careful about picking tenants.
"We're very prudent," he said. "After all, I live here."