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Infill Inkling

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  • | 11:00 a.m. September 29, 2017
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  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Although it continues to build ground-up developments around its University Town Center hub and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, Benderson Development Co. LLC is increasingly turning its attention to infill projects.

Fueled by population densification and other dynamics, Manatee County-based Benderson has taken on a handful of redevelopments, especially in Sarasota County, and company officials say more may be in the offing.

“In more populated areas, there are typically more opportunities for redevelopment, because of the scarcity of sites,” says Mark Chait, the company's executive director of Florida leasing.

“I think it says more about the Sarasota and surrounding markets than it does about the company,” he adds. “Over the course of the past three decades, we've purchased and redeveloped a lot of properties, beginning with our center on Cooper Creek Boulevard that houses BJs Wholesale Club, because of two key pieces: The quality of the consumer and the overall growth of the market. Florida is at the forefront of population growth.”

Benderson's push comes as retail developers throughout the Gulf Coast are grappling with fundamental changes in the way goods and services are purchased by consumers, and amid a densification of established population centers that are fueling infill plans.

Chait adds that Benderson is more “opportunity driven” than anything, and will continue to focus on ground-up developments such as the planned Siesta Promenade, a 25-acre former mobile home park at U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road, and University Town Center, where it is working on an entertainment-centered district to complement the Mall at University Town Center and a series of shopping centers in that area.

But in the past five years, especially, Benderson has increasingly focused on infill projects, whether out of pure opportunity or because greenfield sites have been harder to find and develop.

In Venice, the company purchased and largely remade the Jacaranda Plaza, at 1627 U.S. 41 Bypass S., with LA Fitness, Bonefish Grill, Petco, Dollar Tree and others.

In Sarasota, it has revamped the moribund Pelican Plaza at 8214 S. Tamiami Trail into a successful center anchored by Total Wine & More, Sprouts Farmers Market and other tenants. The company also converted a shuttered Kmart-anchored center across from Sarasota Square Mall, at 8037 S. Tamiami Trail, into a vibrant property occupied by Hobby Lobby, Staples and others.

More recently, the company in January acquired the Landings Shopping Center, at 4800 S. Tamiami Trail, where it is adding restaurants such as Station 400 and Da Ru Ma Japanese Steakhouse and making other improvements. Key tenants there include Publix Super Markets Inc., Petsmart and Jo-Ann Fabrics.

The Landings has suffered in recent years from vacancy and a lack of investment, despite a prominent location along U.S. 41, proximity to affluent neighborhoods and key employers such as the Sarasota County School Board.

“It's fairly typical of what we do, which is buy a center and then invest in physical improvements and new tenants to make it more successful,” he says.

Benderson adopted the same game plan at a former Dillard's attached to the Westfield Southgate Mall, also in Sarasota, which it bought two years ago. There, the company stripped off the department store's façade and made other improvements. Lucky's Market plans to open its first Sarasota-area store in the space, and LA Fitness has added to its growing portfolio of gyms in the region.

Elsewhere in Sarasota, Benderson also has acquired a portion of the Town and Country Plaza, at Fruitville and Beneva roads previously occupied by SweetBay Supermarkets and a few inline stores.

Chait says the company is negotiating with potential tenants now to backfill the vacant space.

He also expects Benderson to continue pursuing redevelopment opportunities for the next few years, at least.

“For the near term, I think there will be a lot more redevelopment, by us and others,” Chait says. “I can't see us or the industry deviating from that.

“We like to keep our minds open to opportunities, and with the changing nature of retail, the opportunities to do purely ground-up developments haven't really been contemplated. So at Southgate Mall and elsewhere, we have the ability to segregate a vacant space and make it a viable property once again.”


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