Tampa’s University Mall is scheduled to receive its largest renovation since last year’s addition of the shopping center’s Studio Movie Grill.
In a press release published late June, real estate and investment firm CBRE announced the first phase of major redevelopments planned for University Mall.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is the executive director of the Tampa Innovation Alliance — the public-private partnership tasked with redeveloping the USF-Tampa area — and said the new additions to the mall are a step in the right direction for helping dissolve the stigma surrounding the area as Suitcase City and for attracting more people to the area.
“They’d like to make the mall a destination for students,” Sharpe said. “That’s helping to drive some of the decisions they’re going to make on how they redevelop the mall.”
Beginning in early 2016, the mall is expected to receive three new major retail stores and two new standalone restaurants along East Fowler Avenue, as well as a 37,000-square-foot health club on the second floor.
The first phase of new construction also includes a cosmetic update for the 41-yearold mall in the form of landscaping, water features and open air sections. The mall’s East Fowler Avenue entrance will be redeveloped and a new walkway connecting the cinema to the rest of the mall will be created.
The three new retail stores will be located inside the space of the old J.C. Penney, which left the mall in 2005, and the existing enclosed common area between the previous J.C. Penney location and the rest of the mall will be demolished to create space for the first-floor entrance of the health club.
Patrice Gingras, University Mall’s interim general manager, said while any redevelopment is good for the mall, this is more about the overall growth of the Tampa area surrounding USF.
“We’re actively involved with the area’s economic development growth,” Gingras said. “We’re partnering with USF, we’re partnering with everyone interested in seeing this area grow. It’s not so much change as growth.”
Shihao Wu, a graduate student in finance at USF, said he only goes to the mall two or three times a year because he feels it has a limited selection and will usually go to International Plaza in Tampa or to a mall in Orlando instead.
He said University Mall’s newly announced redevelopment sounds interesting, however, and he will likely visit the mall once construction is finished.
Nicholas Hermsen, a senior majoring in business, said he only shops at University Mall due to its close proximity to campus, and he said the mall’s new additions would further affect how often he visits the mall. He also said, however, that he feels the updates to the mall are sorely needed.
“It needs an update,” he said. “I can tell the business for the place is depreciating slowly. It’s not the busiest mall I’ve ever been to, so they need it just so it doesn’t actually close down.”
Currently, the mall is still in negotiation with what stores and restaurants will move into the mall, and the cost of University Mall’s redevelopment, as well as what future phases will consist of, has not been released.