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Word of its demise exaggerated, University Mall sets plan for growth

By Carl Cronan

Tampa Bay Business Journal

Updated: 8:00 p.m. ET Oct. 9, 2005

TAMPA -- Glimcher Realty Trust is looking at making drastic changes to University Mall. The owner could put a new tenant in JCPenney's former space, or it could demolish 160,000 square feet and develop an open-air "lifestyle" wing.

"We have always tried, and are continuing to try, to bring different things to the mall," GM Tom Locke said. Locke and Glimcher, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, are talking with "four or five" prospects for the JCPenney space.

"The future of the mall is going to change quicker now that JCPenney is gone, and that change is to try new retailers in the marketplace," Locke said.

That forecast is in direct contrast to persistent street talk that the University of South Florida is buying the aging mall for unspecified purposes, a notion reinforced by JCPenney's move to a newer mall in Pasco County. Word-of-mouth assessment that the 31-year-old mall is no longer as "safe" as it used to be fuels speculation of its demise.

Addressing the notion that USF will take over the Tampa Bay area's largest mall, at 1.3 million square feet, Locke had a simple answer: "It is not true."

"We have no plans to buy the mall," USF spokeswoman Michelle Carlyon added.

University Mall recently added several tenants to its shopping mix, namely Ashley Stewart, an apparel store geared toward black women, and Level 10, a juniors' shop.

A sign at the mall last week advised Wilson's Leather is "coming soon," and a new restaurant is being built near one of the mall's south entrances.

Few other spaces have gone dark within the mall, and Locke mentioned that some tenants have told him they expect an "incremental" boost in business from the JCPenney closing.

A different niche

Mall operators maintain that University Mall will remain open for the foreseeable future, even with the prospect of three new upscale malls opening within easy driving distance.

JCPenney, an original anchor when the Edward J. DeBartolo Corp. opened University Mall in 1974, closed Oct. 1 in preparation for Friday's opening of its 98,844-square-foot store at The Shops at Wiregrass, along SR 56 in Wesley Chapel. The company stated that the new store will be "more convenient and enjoyable for customers."

Glimcher, which also owns WestShore Plaza in Tampa, intends to keep the University Mall up and running as one of its only two properties throughout Florida.

"That property is important to us," Carolee Oertel, Glimcher's manager of investor relations, said of University Mall. The self-administered real estate investment trust owns about 40 properties totaling 24 million square feet of retail space, primarily in the East and Midwest.

Glimcher acquired University Mall from DeBartolo in 1997 for $121 million, then purchased WestShore Plaza from Grosvenor Group Holdings Ltd. in 2003 for $153 million.

"We like being in Tampa," Oertel said. She added that she is unaware of any plans by Glimcher to sell University Mall.

Leases extended

Tenants at University Mall also say they know of no plans to sell to USF or anyone else. In fact, some stores are being offered favorable lease extensions in an effort to maintain occupancy.

"We're still getting plenty of traffic," said Melissa Fisher, manager of Collector's Corner. Fisher said the USF buyout rumors are being perpetuated more by people "hanging out" at the mall rather than actual customers or mall employees.

USF's use of the mall's 16-screen movie theater as additional classroom space over the past three years may have contributed to the rumor, along with a series of banners promoting the mall's support for the college's sports teams, Locke said.

Blue and purple are now the mall's predominant colors, rather than USF's green and gold.

Selling the mall outright would not be that simple, Locke said, since the other three anchors -- Sears, Macy's and Dillard's -- own their spaces.

Dillard's, the most upscale of University Mall's anchors, is trying to attract additional customers instead of planning an exit strategy.

"We're not going anywhere for the time being," store manager Gary Carlascio said.

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9648832/

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Buying that land and even thinking about putting a stadium there is moronic.  Yeah let's have students walk thru  2 miles of suitcase city to get to  football games

1 - It's not 2 miles. If you think about Sears, it's about 1/2 mile from the USF campus.

2 - It is a lot of land.  Stadiums only need 20-25 acres for the actual building.  1 acre is 43,000 square feet.  The mall's covered space is 1.3 million square feet, that would be almost 30 acres -- not including the huge parking area around it.

While it seems moot considering the article I posted... USF could buy the land in the future for future expansion... like 30 years from now when USF has 65,000 students and needs more space for dormitories, classrooms, and can afford to build its own stadium.

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1 - It's not 2 miles. If you think about Sears, it's about 1/2 mile from the USF campus.

2 - It is a lot of land.  Stadiums only need 20-25 acres for the actual building.  1 acre is 43,000 square feet.  The mall's covered space is 1.3 million square feet, that would be almost 30 acres -- not including the huge parking area around it.

While it seems moot considering the article I posted... USF could buy the land in the future for future expansion... like 30 years from now when USF has 65,000 students and needs more space for dormitories, classrooms, and can afford to build its own stadium.

If you think about where the dorms are currently located (which is where the students would be coming from) then it's at least two miles.

Not sure if you've ever been on that stretch of road by what used to be "The Gables" (?) apartment complex, near the VA hospital on Bruce B. Downs? That's not a good area.  If I was a student I wouldn't want to have to go thru there to get to the games and as an alum I don't want to have to tailgate/park my car there.  I've now been to the Orange Bowl and the Citrus Bowl.  Watching a game in the 'hood ain't fun for anyone.

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If you think about where the dorms are currently located (which is where the students would be coming from) then it's at least two miles.

Not sure if you've ever been on that stretch of road by what used to be "The Gables" (?) apartment complex, near the VA hospital on Bruce B. Downs? That's not a good area.  If I was a student I wouldn't want to have to go thru there to get to the games and as an alum I don't want to have to tailgate/park my car there.  I've now been to the Orange Bowl and the Citrus Bowl.  Watching a game in the 'hood ain't fun for anyone.

That's 131st avenue...

But why would you walk that way when you can exit campus by the botanical gardens right across from the entrance to the mall??

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  I've now been to the Orange Bowl and the Citrus Bowl.  Watching a game in the 'hood ain't fun for anyone.

The 'hood?  You guys are easily intimidated.  We are not talking about Canal and Rampart St here(New Orleans) Now that I can understand.  But the areas around USF/OB?  It may not be New Tampa or SoBe but those places are not dangerous. Just old houses, and a few projects but it is really not that bad.

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Its freak'n Bruce B Down's not suitcase city!   ::)

I am not saying I thought it was a good idea but come on.  It is across the street from USF right now.  As far as the students not wanting to walk to it you have got to be kidding even if it was 2 miles.  They have shuttles... and its only 2 crappy miles!

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