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Entertainment district at UTC is unveiled

Entertainment row is taking on a whole new meaning in Sarasota, and It may actually involve paddles.

Proposed east district of the Mall at University Town Center property. Renderings shown at 2016 International Council of Shopping Centers annual ReCon conference in Las Vegas. (Provided by Benderson Development)
Proposed east district of the Mall at University Town Center property. Renderings shown at 2016 International Council of Shopping Centers annual ReCon conference in Las Vegas. (Provided by Benderson Development.

The long-anticipated entertainment district at the southeast corner of University Town Center is slated to have a canal down the center of the mixed-used development, according to renderings from Manatee County’s Benderson Development Co.

The project eases up to two ponds on the north side of Cattlemen Road, which connects to nearby Nathan Benderson Park. The drawings also illustrate a number of bridges over the canal, indicating the area will be walker-, driver- and rower-friendly to shoppers, diners, residents and business people utilizing the property.

The goal is to appeal to the masses, said Mark Chait, executive director of leasing for Benderson Development Co., whether that’s a couple looking for a nice glass of wine and a shopping trip or business partners needing a place to cut a deal.

“It’s really to make it as interactive as possible and as interesting as possible, so that people come there for different purposes, at different times of the day and different days of the week,” Chait said.

The project, known as “The East District,” was on display and up for lease during the International Council of Shopping Center’s annual ReCon. The three-day conference is a hotspot for brokers, developers and retailers to do a year’s worth of deals in just a few days.

Mixed uses

The East District could eventually be home to as many as 1,750 residential units, 500 hotel rooms as well as a high-end mix of residential, restaurant, retail and office space.

Five other retail hubs, including the Mall at University Town Center, already drive consumer (and car) traffic in the University Town Center area on on the west side of the University Parkway and Interstate 75 corridor. Big box stores such as Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Super Target and Old Navy dominate the existing portion of the development.

Chait stressed The East District renderings are subject to change, but the illustrations show something dramatically different than what has come before.

An iPic luxury movie theater and restaurant is expected to anchor the site at the north end of the project, and an outdoor concert venue is also visible in what represents the southeast corner of the project in the renderings. Strings of shops and restaurants line both sides of the canal, while moderately sized towers of residences and hotels loom in the background.

“It’s very different and very purposeful,” Chait said in an interview at Benderson’s booth at the ICSC conference on Tuesday. “This is part of the entertainment district, … And it’s about having a great movie theater and having more wonderful restaurants and other venues that create a real walkable and very lively atmosphere.”

Demanding innovation

The project, which Chait expects will break ground in 2017, is materializing at a time when new retail developments demand innovation.

The ICSC conference kicked off on Sunday with a presentation from Jane Lisy, a retail strategist from Atlanta-based Alexander Babbage, who stressed the importance using more than commodities to drive retail sales.

Consumers need more than a storefront to part with their cash. As retail apparel sales continue to falter in a post-Great Recession market and continues to pummel its competition, brick-and-mortar stores need help driving traffic.

Shoppers are looking for experiences, Lisy said, and a lot of retail centers have implemented concert venues to bring in more foot traffic.

“These are things that operate on their own, and then it takes the burden off of you a little bit to have to surprise and delight,” Lisy said. “If you build them in, there’s an ongoing reason for a shopper to come to your center.”

Entertainment, in general, has been widely popular in the retail industry, Lisy said. IPic along with the bowling-and-bistro-mashup PinStripes and TopGolf’s new technology twist on the traditional driving range have changed the face of the traditional shopping center.

Chait declined to disclose specific tenants slated for The East District. He did say, however, that the project has been well received, and that he expects the development to bring in a number of restaurants, retailers and entertainment-based businesses who will be new to the Sarasota-Bradenton market.

“These are things that lead into that walkability and that lifestyle,” Chait said. “It will really be a destination that will serve the entire community for so many different purposes.”

New UTC Mall in Sarasota/Lakewood Ranch area.
New UTC Mall in Sarasota/Lakewood Ranch area.


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DeAnna Greenhaw

DeAnna is a Licensed Real Estate Agent and Oliver McConnell's new customer manager at our Sarasota Office. (941) 359-6529.

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