OLDSMAR — Corey Newman frequently walks from her apartment to the Walmart on Tampa Road, pushing her toddler, Sky, in a stroller. On a recent Friday, she checked out the construction going on at Forest Lakes Plaza.
"I think my life will change drastically once the new shopping center is done,'' said Newman, 38.
This fall an Aldi grocery store and a Ross Dress for Less are expected to open as the new anchor tenants at the center, located on the northwest corner of Tampa Road and Forest Lakes Boulevard. It has been more than eight years since the last anchor, Winn Dixie, closed its doors.
"When the Aldi opens, that'll be really huge for me because I won't have to cross (Forest Lakes Boulevard) to get to Walmart anymore,'' Newman said.
Contractor Malcomson Construction Co. is working on the exterior renovations. There are five businesses operating at the plaza now, with about a dozen more storefronts still available for rent.
Despite the lag, developer Jim Dunphy of Dunphy Properties said momentum is increasing.
"I think as the project progresses, interest will continue to increase. This site is excellent. It has great visibility and great access,'' he said.
The newest tenant is Kristen and Tim Mortara's Four Monkeys Candy Connection. Along with the Mortaras, the unidentified owner of an independent pharmacy also recently signed a lease for a 1,000-square-foot store, according to Lisa McCaffrey of Colliers International, the firm responsible for renting out the plaza.
The Mortaras, of Palm Harbor, decided to relocate their shop from Clearwater Beach after reading about the redevelopment last year.
"Honestly, a big reason we moved here was because the rent is lower in Oldsmar than it is on the beach,'' she said. "Now that we're here we have realized how busy Oldsmar is. The city has been very welcoming to us too, and even the construction group has helped by making a big sign so everyone can see us during construction.''
At Munchies, a pet nutrition center that opened about 12 years ago, manager Donna Klenovich also touted the efforts of the construction crew.
"Construction of course is a pain, but it's actually been good for us. It's drawing attention here,'' she said. "The construction foreman made a big sign for us, and people come in saying they didn't even know we were here.''
Newman hopes "a kid-friendly restaurant'' will move to the plaza.
"Like Chuck E. Cheese,'' she said. "Let's do it.''
Piper Castillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4163. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.