October 24, 2014

Changes in Store- Southwest/ Tampa Bay- Nov. 2002

Amy Welch Brill | 11/1/2002
Like many middle-aged mall properties in Florida these days, the former Clearwater Mall in Pinellas County is being reincarnated. The mall, in a prime location at U.S. 19 and Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, featured Gayfers and Burdines as anchor stores during its heyday in the mid-1980s, attracting customers from all over Pinellas County.

But by 1985, as development sprawled northward, it had to compete against both discount retailers and newer, bigger malls: In 1985, Countryside Mall opened barely 10 miles north of Clearwater Mall, sporting an ice skating rink, almost twice as many specialty shops and four anchors, including Burdines. The next 15 years saw a slow, steady erosion in both customers and tenants for Clearwater Mall, which officially closed last year.

That same scenario is playing out in many locations in Florida, leaving developers searching for new formulas to revitalize mall properties that haven't been able to compete. "Only one or two malls can survive in a market," says Patrick Berman, a retail specialist for Cushman & Wakefield in Tampa.

Redevelopment is taking many forms. One formula is the so-called "power center'' that bundles a group of successful discount retailers. The St. Petersburg-based Sembler Co. and New York-based New Plan Excel Realty Trust are now tearing down the Clearwater Mall to build a $100-million, 785,000-sq.-ft. power center featuring a SuperTarget, Costco and Lowe's -- ironically, the very kind of retailers that have led to the demise of many older malls, says Berman.

Other developers are attempting to turn old mall properties into mini-downtowns. In central Florida, West Palm Beach-based Goodman Co. plans to tear down one-third of the 350,000-sq.-ft. Osceola Square Mall and redevelop it with smaller retailers like bookstores and dry cleaners. The old enclosed Winter Park Mall was rebuilt in 1999 as a more upscale open-air center called Winter Park Village, with antique lampposts, landscaping and specialty shops. Winter Park Village even includes apartments and office space. "The big trend is having people live, work and shop all in one place," says Berman.

The fate of other malls, however, remains unclear. Just a few miles south of the Clearwater Mall site, the ParkSide Mall is now for sale after a failed million-dollar makeover. The half-vacant mall's future is complicated by the fact that anchor tenants Dillard's and J.C. Penney Outlet own their own space and are still in business. The mall's $25-million asking price doesn't include those stores. Mike Millano, who is handling the ParkSide sale for Colliers Arnold in Tampa, thinks a developer can find a new use. "The dynamic of retail is that every property and use has a life cycle."

IN THE NEWS

Bradenton -- Tropicana is suing Lake Wales-based Florida Natural Growers, claiming that Florida Natural Growers misrepresents its label by using California juice among its ingredients. The company denies its label is misleading.

Clearwater -- The Community Development Board approved a new Clearwater Community Sports Complex and spring training facility for the Philadelphia Phillies. The two projects will cost an estimated $20.5 million. The Phillies have trained in Clearwater since 1947. The complex is expected to be completed by March 2004.

The St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport has received a $6.3-million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration for improvements, including strengthening a runway, security enhancements and a thermal imaging device.

Hillsborough County -- The Hillsborough Aviation Authority will spend $126.5 million to build a new terminal for Southwest Airlines at Tampa International Airport. The authority also plans to tear down a vacant airside building for additional aircraft parking.

Hillsborough County commissioners voted 5-2 against a rezoning request by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a new training facility, saying the facility was "incompatible" with the surrounding parkland.

Naples -- A bankruptcy judge has ruled that the landlord at Waterside Shops in Naples can pay Jacobson's department store $1 million to buy out its lease. The upscale department store chain is liquidating its operations. Bloomingdale's is among the stores reportedly interested in the 62,000-sq.-ft. space.

Sarasota -- Sarasota-based Central European Distribution Corp. (Nasdaq-CEDC), an alcoholic beverage distributor, has acquired Poland-based Onufry Co., also a beverage distributor. Financial terms were not disclosed. Onufry posted $30 million in sales last year.

St. Petersburg -- The City Council has approved a 12-month lease agreement with St. Petersburg-based Hover-USA for commercial Hovercraft service from the St. Petersburg Pier to Fort DeSoto Park and Egmont Key. Fares will range from $10 to $25.

Tampa -- The University of South Florida received $41.4 million from Congress this year, 35% of the $117.9-million total that went to all Florida universities, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Chronicle credits Rep. C.W. Bill Young, the Largo Republican who heads the House Appropriations Committee, with steering the research funds to USF.

Seven former and current employees of Tampa Electric Co. are suing the utility for $15,000 each, saying they suffered neurological damage as a result of a 1999 chemical leak at Big Bend Station. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined TECO $1,500 in 1999 for the spill. Two employees have not worked since the spill, citing brain damage and heartbeat abnormalities, among other ailments.

Venice -- Window manufacturer PGT Industries is predicting a 21% increase in sales this year to $160 million. The company credits Florida's recent adoption of new hurricane building codes. Sales have grown from 10% to 20% a year in the past five years. South Florida has had stricter codes since 1992.

Agriculture
CITRUS SPYING?

HENDRY COUNTY -- The Florida Department of Citrus is spending $40,000 on a pilot program in Hendry County to see if it can spy on Brazilian citrus growers, according to a report in the Palm Beach Post. The department is using a satellite 270 miles up called QuickBird to photograph parts of the county to determine if the resolution of the photographs allows it to count individual citrus trees. Bob Crawford, executive director of the Department of Citrus, hopes to get a more accurate count of citrus trees in Brazil, the world's largest orange producer and the chief rival to Florida growers. Crawford says Florida growers have never been able to get a "true count" of Brazil's citrus trees, believing information supplied by Brazil isn't complete.

Marketing
NAMING RIGHTS

ST. PETERSBURG -- The St. Petersburg Times has become the first newspaper to buy the naming rights to a major sports and entertainment arena. The deal calls for the Times -- parent company of Florida Trend -- to pay $2.1 million a year for 12 years to Palace Sports & Entertainment, which operates the downtown Tampa arena and owns the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning. In return, the former Ice Palace is now called the St. Pete Times Forum.

The deal generated some controversy because the initial announcement did not include the sum being paid by the newspaper, an ardent advocate of releasing public records. Executives at the Times, which has made strong circulation gains in Tampa as it competes against the Tampa Tribune, say the move will bolster the newspaper's presence in Hillsborough County.

Tags: Southwest, Tampa Bay

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