Around the State
Central Ybor - The 200,000-square-foot Centro Ybor entertainment center will be in the heart of Tampa's historic Ybor City district - home to hand-rolled cigar factories in the early 1900s and more recently a thriving night-time quarter for dance and music clubs, restaurants and small retail shops. Centro Ybor will feature a Muvico 20-screen theater complex and the restored Centro Espa-ol building, which will feature restaurants and retail space. Planners Steiner & Associates and the Sembler Company say that offering more family-friendly entertainment will generate business in the daytime and bring even more people to Ybor City at night. The project, scheduled for completion in early 2000, is projected to create more than 900 jobs.
Channelside at Garrison Seaport - This 230,000-square-foot development on Tampa's downtown waterfront will feature specialty retail shops, five restaurants, a 15-screen Regal Cinema and a 400-seat IMAX theatre. Developer Hogan-Burt expects the center to be finished next year and to draw visitors day and night, linking downtown Tampa with neighboring Ybor City. Nearby attractions include the Ice Palace, which draws 1.6 million people a year, and the Florida Aquarium, which pulls in 800,000.
International Plaza - Near Tampa International Airport, the enclosed, 1.2 million-sq.- ft., two-level plaza will have up to five department stores and more than 125 specialty retailers, along with an outdoor restaurant and entertainment area. Anchor stores include Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor and Neiman Marcus. Construction on International Plaza begins next month; developer Taubman Co. expects completion by 2001.
Jack Rodriguez, with Ybor City Development Corp., says the three projects will create a better place for residents and increase Tampa's appeal to tourists. "These are all upscale developments that will stimulate the economy, generate jobs and build a tax base," says Rodriguez. "They are going to be great for Tampa." - Mindy Tanenbaum
BONITA SPRINGS- WCI Communities Inc., based here, will merge with Florida Design Communities Inc. of Sun City Center, creating a team of community developers and homebuilders with annual revenues of about $550 million. The merged company will remain in Bonita Springs.
CLEARWATER- MarineMax (NYSE-HZO), the nation's largest recreational boat retailer, acquired Sea Ray of Las Vegas, a boat retailer with 1997 revenues of $4.7 million. The acquisition strengthens MarineMax's western presence and expands its operations. The company now has 36 retail locations nationwide.
Publicly held Rally's Hamburgers will merge with Los Angeles-based Giant Group and Checkers Drive-In (Nasdaq-CHKR) in an all-stock transaction. Headquarters for the new company, which will keep the Checkers name, will remain in Clearwater.
LAKELAND- Geico Insurance officials say the company will build a new facility at the Lakeland Air Center to accommodate an additional 3,000 employees. The expansion is contingent on a $2 million road-improvement grant from Enterprise Florida to improve access to the site.
MULBERRY- U.S. Filter/Fife is building a 10,000-square-foot expansion onto its pipe-fitting manufacturing plant. The $200,000 project will boost payroll by about 14.
NAPLES- Business management-related computer software company Allen Systems Group, employing more than 250 worldwide, acquired Amsterdam-based Manager Software Products and two software products developed by Bridgeville, Penn.-based Emprise Technologies.
ST. PETERSBURG- Lexington, Mass.-based defense contractor Raytheon Corp. plans to cut 16% of its work force nationwide, or 14,000 jobs, over the next two years. Some 100 jobs will be eliminated in St. Petersburg, but company officials say those cutbacks will not affect plans to create 450 new jobs when Raytheon moves a business unit into the Pinellas STAR (Science Technology and Research) Center in Largo next year [FT, October 1998].
TAMPA- Miami-based Coler Ocean Independent Lines offers new weekly cargo service from the Port of Tampa that will expand trade opportunities between Tampa Bay and Central America by serving the Panama market and almost doubling business with Guatemala and Honduras. Coler will transport all types of roll-on and roll-off cargo.
John Hancock Real Estate is renovating Eastlake Square Mall and transforming it into Netpark, a 1-million-sq.-ft. corporate center for back-office operations, call centers, and high-tech research and development companies. The facility will have more than 6,000 employees and feature in-house child care, a food court and possibly a health club.