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Major renovations could spark new life in Tampa mall

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  • | 3:02 p.m. June 23, 2015
  • Tampa Bay-Lakeland
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TAMPA -- Months after buying it out of foreclosure, the owners of the long-struggling University Mall, near the main campus of University of South Florida, have unveiled some big plans for the 41-year-old shopping center.

RD Management LLC is sharing the first phase of its major renovation project to the mall, which will transform more than 246,000 square feet of retail space.

The initial focus will be on what was a former store for J.C. Penney Co. RD wants to turn that single store into three, with a large anchor on the first floor and a smaller one on the second, right next to a 37,000-square foot health club. By creating smaller floor plans, it's likely RD can finally attract tenants for the space, which has been vacant for nearly a decade.

Along with those renovations to the 1.1 million-square-foot mall's western wing, RD plans to build two new freestanding restaurants in front of the mall, along Fowler Avenue.

The overall renovation will include demolition of the existing enclosed mall common area space between the former J.C. Penney and the remaining mall to create room for what the developer calls a new “lifestyle addition.”

The architectural work will be handled by an affiliate of Perkins Eastman Architects out of New York.

RD didn't provide an estimate on how much the first phase of renovations would cost, but did say that work would begin early next year.

The mall was originally built by the DeBartolo family in 1974, with the J.C. Penney store as an original anchor. Other anchors have included Macy's, Sears, Burlington Coat Factory and Dillard's.

Somera Capital Management and Rockwood Capital bought University Mall in 2007 for $144 million and announced plans for $11 million in renovations the next year. The lender in the deal foreclosed in 2012, and RD paid a much smaller price, according to Hillsborough County property records — $29.5 million.

The mall has 125 retail tenants, and Studio Movie Grill filled what had been an empty theater space at the mall last October.

RD Management is based in New York City, and describes itself as the 30th largest retail real estate owner in the United States, with more than 18 million square feet in its portfolio. It's responsible for more than 200 shopping centers in 26 states, as well as Puerto Rico.


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