August 5, 2020
Bucking the trend: New Sarasota mall has opened


"This is a really fast-growing population, and it's underserved as a retail location." -- Octavio Ortiz, general manager, University Town Center

Southwest Florida roundup

Bucking the trend: New Sarasota mall has opened

A long-stalled mall project in Sarasota has opened.

Amy Martinez | 10/28/2014

Sarasota’s University Town Center mall was supposed to open four years ago with Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus as major tenants. Developers talked confidently in 2007 about filling a void between Tampa and Naples for upscale shopping. Then they got cold feet.

The $315-million project was shelved during the recession and remained stalled until late 2012, when co-developers Taubman Centers of Michigan and Florida-based Benderson Development began construction.

The 880,000-sq.-ft. mall opened in October with three anchor stores: Dillard’s, Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. General manager Octavio Ortiz says it has a lease agreement or commitment for 90% of its space, and roughly half of the tenants are new to the market, such as Apple.

Located off I-75, University Town Center is one of only two enclosed malls to open nationwide this year. The other is New York City’s Bay Plaza mall, a 780,000-sq.-ft. expansion of an adjacent big-box shopping center. 

Fewer malls are being built nationwide, and not just because of the economy. Store chains are reconsidering their physical presence as online shopping captures a bigger share of retail sales.

Real estate research firm Green Street Advisors predicts that in the next decade, about 15% of the malls in the country will close or be repurposed for another use besides retail.

Taubman’s new mall in Sarasota stiffens the competition for older shopping centers nearby. Its target market stretches from Fort Myers to St. Petersburg — an area with 1.2 million people and a projected five-year growth rate of 10%, Ortiz says.

Taubman, which also manages International Plaza in Tampa, knows firsthand about regional shopping patterns. “This is a really fast-growing population, and it’s underserved as a retail location,” Ortiz says.


> Lee Memorial Health System named Ben Spence CFO following the retirement of Mike German. Spence previously was controller responsible for acute care and reimbursement at Lee Memorial.

> Retired Col. Scott DeThomas, formerly CEO of MacDill Air Force Base, joined GTE Financial as senior vice president for products and member sales.

> Larry Richey became Florida market leader for Cushman & Wakefield after overseeing its Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville offices for 23 years.

> University of South Florida System President Judy Genshaft tapped Sandra Stone to become regional chancellor of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. Stone had been vice president for academic affairs at Dalton State College in Georgia. Terry Osborn had been interim regional chancellor.

> WellCare Health Plans of Tampa hired Andrew Asher as senior vice president and expects to make him CFO this month. Asher previously was CFO of Aetna’s local and regional businesses.



Former University of Florida wide receiver Michael Wehrell was working toward a master’s degree in electrical engineering 30 years ago when he began developing sports training equipment. Since then, his VertiMax resistance-band training system has gained a following among college and professional athletes. Now, Tampa-based VertiMax is launching a new device, called Raptor, to capitalize on growth in the youth sports market. The Raptor is a smaller, portable version of the VertiMax, which makes it easier to “take out to a softball or soccer field” to train kids teams, says Al Marez, vice president of business development. At $1,295, the Raptor also is less than half the cost of larger VertiMax systems. “Middle school is our sweet spot,” Marez says, adding that many parents see it as a smart investment toward a possible college scholarship. “Every parent of a successful youth athlete wants college paid for.”


BRADENTON — Cable operator Bright House Networks plans to add 155 jobs in three years at its Manatee County customer call center.

CLEARWATER — Moving and storage company PODS won a $62-million lawsuit against U-Haul International. Clearwater-based PODS sued U-Haul in 2012 over its use of the word “pods” in marketing materials; U-Haul countered that the word is generic and cannot be trademarked.

PINELLAS COUNTY — Sunwing Airlines will introduce scheduled, non-stop service to Ottawa from St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in December. Ottawa becomes the third Canadian city connected to the airport by non-stop service, after Toronto and Halifax.

ST. PETERSBURG — The University of South Florida St. Petersburg received $10 million from entrepreneur Kate Tiedemann, the largest gift in the school’s history, and will name its business school the Kate Tiedemann College of Business. Tiedemann, who has just an eighth-grade education, founded eye instruments company Katena Products in her garage in New Jersey and sold it to private equity firm Cortec Group. > A $46-million project to redo the city’s pier attraction has been whittled down to eight design teams, including one headed by Salvador Dalí Museum architect Yann Weymouth. > A deal between Tampa Bay Rowdies owner Bill Edwards and Mayor Rick Kriseman for Edwards to take over downtown’s Al Lang Stadium for four years is back on after falling apart. Edwards wants to spend $1.5 million on infrastructure improvements to make the baseball field more suitable for soccer.

TAMPA — The home of the Tampa Bay Lightning received a new name, Amalie Arena, under a deal between Amalie Oil and Tampa Bay Sports and Entertainment. The Tampa Bay Times had held the naming rights since 2002. > A Connecticut firm, Peerless Systems Corp., is buying 80% of the stock of Tampa-based, publicly traded Deer Valley, which designs and builds manufactured homes, for about $4 million. > One Call Care Management, which has corporate offices in Jacksonville and Parsippany, N.J., plans to lay off 99 employees in Tampa by next July. > British financial services company HSBC will lay off 83 people in Tampa starting in late December. > Busch Gardens opened a new drop ride called Falcon’s Fury. > Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled a $20-million plan to redevelop a 23-acre park on the west bank of the Hillsborough River. The plan includes a two-story building with about 6,750 square feet of community meeting space and a city-owned and operated boathouse.

Hertz CEO Forced Out

Mark Frissora, who led Hertz’s decision last year to move its headquarters to Estero from Park Ridge, N.J., stepped down as Hertz chairman and CEO amid shareholder pressure. Veteran activist investor Carl Icahn disclosed in August that he held an 8.5% stake in Hertz and would call for management changes, citing concerns over “shareholder value, accounting issues, operational failures and underperformance relative to its peers.” The head of Hertz’s equipment rental business, Brian MacDonald, was named interim CEO.

Tags: Southwest, Retail & Sales

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