By Laura Finaldi
Herald Tribune Staff Writer
Posted May 22, 2019 at 10:10 AM
Benderson Development Co. releases plans at Las Vegas conference.
LAS VEGAS — The next phase of the University Town Center development will be entertainment,office space, hotels and upscale apartments, features Benderson Development Co. has been teasing
Benderson plans to build 1,750 upscale apartments, 250,000 square feet of office space, entertainment and more in the development at Interstate 75 and University Parkway along the Sarasota-Manatee County line.
A major part of that is the East District at University Town Center, the long-awaited but currently nonexistent mixed-use development that will be adjacent to I-75 south of University Parkway.
According to plans from Benderson obtained at the International Council of Shopping Centers ReCon retail conference in Las Vegas, the planned 900,000-square-foot East District will feature an entertainment center anchored by an upscale multi-screen cinema. It will also have three hotels with 500 total rooms, office space, restaurants and retail.
In total, University Town Center will end up being roughly 4 million square feet, Mark Chait, executive director of leasing at Benderson, said in an interview.
“We’ve always envisioned University Town Center to be a true mixed-use project encompassing retail, obviously, restaurants, entertainment, office, residential and hotels. So the East District will be focused on several of those components,” Chait said.
He highlighted office space, hotels and residences as some of the major components of the East District.
Some of the 1,750 apartments will be part of the East District, but the first phase of residences will be just south of the Homewood Suites hotel on Cattlemen Road. The residences at the East District will be on the southern end of that property, Chait said.
“We will always look at market conditions to evaluate what the right unit mix is and the right amenity mix, but the first phase will be upscale housing,” he said.
According to demographic data listed on a Benderson flyer, the area within 15 miles of University Town Center is projected to grow by 19.2 percent over the next five years. The average household income is $80,492.
The renderings on display at ReCon are similar to plans Benderson put out at the conference three years ago. Last year, at an Orlando retail conference, Chait said that nothing was set in stone for the East District, and this week he stressed that Benderson looked at several mixed-use centers across the country to make its plans the best possible.
Sarasota County increased its hotel inventory by 23 percent between 2016 and 2018. Despite that major increase, Chait said he thinks there is still demand for more hotel rooms in the area because of sports tourism at Nathan Benderson Park, Premier Sports Campus and IMG Academy, business factors and tourism overall.
Chait declined to name the upscale movie theater tenant. Years ago, Benderson worked with iPic on a deal, which never materialized. There will also be green space that can be used for entertainment and daily use and other entertainment tenants that Chait said he wasn’t ready to announce.
The movie theater will be about 10 miles north of Cobb CineBistro at Westfield Siesta Key mall in Sarasota.
Justin Greider, vice president of retail brokerage at development group JLL in Orlando, said he thinks it’s possible for both upscale theaters to do well in the Sarasota market. University Town Center is a destination that will draw people from 30 to 40 miles away, whereas Westfield Siesta Key is much more about serving the surrounding area.
“If you live in Siesta Key or you live downtown, why in the world would you drive all the way to UTC to go to a movie theater when you have a fantastic dine-in movie theater right there?” he said. Chait said Benderson hopes to break ground on the East District within a year.