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Multifaceted Mall For South County
By MARY SHEDDEN The Tampa Tribune
Published: May 22, 2007
The biggest retail center ever planned for south Hillsborough County is betting that blending department stores, big-box retailers and the area's first movie theater will draw hundreds of thousands of shoppers away from area malls.
Developers on Monday revealed preliminary plans for the Big Bend Road project that will blend 1.5 million square feet of retail, entertainment, offices and hotels on the 133-acre tract just west of Interstate 75.
Called Southshore Commons, the project will feature strips of big-box retailers and a more intimate town center concept with department stores and an entertainment and restaurant complex, said Steve Wathen, chief executive of Ohio-based Equity developers.
The town center - which will wrap in part around a massive man-made lake - will include the first multiscreen movie theater in southern Hillsborough. All told the project includes five office buildings and two hotels and is approximately 350,000 square feet larger that the 1.15 million-square-foot Westfield Brandon mall.
"Residents will be struck by the environment we're creating," Wathen said of the $200 million project. "They'll still be able to retire in their suburban lifestyle, but within five to 10 minutes they can be here."
The announcement at the International Council of Shopping Centers spring convention comes as Equity attempts to broker deals with specific retailers. They wouldn't release names of the top companies with which they are negotiating.
Wathen said it could be a year before construction starts at the site on the southwest corner of Big Bend Road and Interstate 75. The goal is to open nearly all of the proposed retail at Southshore Commons in spring 2009.
The plans released Monday offer clues to the type of retail Equity hopes to lure for one of the Bay area's fastest growing areas. U.S. Census Bureau estimates project that by 2025, nearby Sun City Center and Apollo Beach will add more than 12,000 residents. Areas south of Brandon such as Riverview are experiencing similar growth.
Southshore Commons would include a 120,000-square-foot big-box retailer such as Target as well as an 80,000-square-foot department store. Plans also show large spaces reserved for arts and crafts, electronics, office supply and sporting goods stores.
It's behind the big-box retailers where shoppers will discover the town center.
Wathen said a two-lane road with street-level shops will lead to a town square-style area and entertainment area around the man-made lake. Offices will be on the second floor of the downtown center.
The lake, which architects envision with a wide pedestrian walkway, will serve multiple purposes.
It's attractive, Wathen said, but also will collect stormwater runoff and create a natural buffer between shops and the adjacent Covington Gardens subdivision. A 150-room hotel would be located on the water. A yet unnamed church is also set on the water.
"By massing all the water here, we create a gorgeous buffer from residents," he said.
Wathen said restaurants in the project's town center and its entertainment district could appeal to more than the estimated 251,000 families who live within 20 minutes of the site. The average family income for those families: $70,573.