Using a backhoe with a claw attachment, workers tore away the letters of the Sears sign from the east facing wall of the 45-year-old former department store and tore away sections of the facade during another important step in the complete redevelopment of this strategically located, regional mall property into a large-scale, walkable and connected, multi-story, urban neighborhood development. This urban renewal project, located within a federally-designated Opportunity Zone, will shift from the property’s traditional retail origin and fully leverage the Innovation Community potential driven by its world-class, academic, scientific, and technology neighbors.
“A project like this only comes along – if you’re lucky – once in your career as a real estate developer,” said RD Management’s Chief Development Strategist, Chris Bowen, “I’m fortunate to be here as part of this project with a great company and a great team and more importantly a great neighborhood. This is a wonderful community. It’s been overlooked many times, but as you start to come here – and I encourage everyone throughout Tampa Bay to come here and spend some time and walk the streets. Walk around the USF campus. Walk off the USF campus into one of the largest medical districts in Florida – in the top three. See all the technology players that are coming. All the students that bring another aspect of life here.”
University Mall’s 100 stores, restaurants, and other tenants remain open for business as usual during the demolition. The 17-acre Sears parcel, acquired by RD Management, LLC in March 2018, is a very key ingredient in the redevelopment formula for the 100-acre, rezoned and master-planned, innovation community. This east side portion of the larger Urban neighborhood development, previously occupied by approximately 230,000 SF of retail building space, has the capacity to support over 2 million square feet of mixed-use development. The former Sears is on the east end of the mall just four blocks from the USF campus and the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, ranked #1 in the world for rehabilitation medicine and related research.
“As our Master Plan moves through its final approval stage over the next 3-4 months with Hillsborough County,” states RD Management’s Chief Development Strategist, Chris Bowen, “the community will start to see these plans unfold in the form of new development and opportunities for our residents, businesses, and institutions.”
Preliminary planning to-date for the former Sears parcel includes up to one million square feet of new office space, capacity for up to 400 hotel rooms, up to 1,000 apartment units, up to 100,000 square feet of street-level restaurants, shops, fitness, and experiential concepts, redevelopment of the lake frontage to the back of the property, and a greenway pedestrian/bike trail and shuttle bus connection along the lake to the VA hospital campus to the north and the USF campus to the east.
Through its land acquisition, community outreach, and master planning phases over the past several years, this RD Management redevelopment project, in what was formerly known as the University Area, has already started to create a new direction and identity for our local businesses and residents to rally around as participants and partners in the Uptown District vision.
“The beauty of this site is that we are right there,” Bowen told those gathered to watch the demolition, ” We are in the mix of world-class rehabilitation medicine and care, world-class academic research, and cancer research, technology players, cyber security, mini-satellites, drones, smart armor, artificial intelligence, machine learning, whatever you want to put up, it’s here! It’s already here. I think a few years ago our own neighbors didn’t realize it. That’s why this kind of project is happening.”