SPRING HILL — Hernando County residents are abuzz with anticipation of new retail and dining options coming to the intersection of Cortez and Mariner boulevards — at what will be the first major shopping center to open in Hernando in several years.
Bulldozers have been clearing the 20-acre site on the south side of Cortez just west of Mariner, indicating that construction will begin soon at Cortez Commons.
So far, four tenants have filed paperwork with the county.
The confirmed tenants are Bonefish Grill, Hobby Lobby, Mattress Firm and the Vitamin Shoppe.
County commissioners in late December were excited when the developer's representative, Peter Creighton of Huntley Properties, attended the meeting during which the final plat for the center was approved.
"We'll look forward to all those new stores and businesses and restaurants and everything else that will move in out there,'' then-Chairman Dave Russell said.
Bonefish Grill is set to be a free-standing tenant.
"When selecting a site, there are several factors considered. The site in Brooksville is centralized, accessible to major roadways and located at a major intersection. There is also a good residential population base and adequate retail traffic to support a new restaurant,'' said Elizabeth Watts, director of media and community relations for Bloomin' Brands Inc., Bonefish's parent company.
Ground breaking is planned for late spring or early summer.
Hobby Lobby plans a mid-fall opening for its first store in Hernando County. The company chose the site because "we feel that we can bring a very unique shopping experience to the area. We are looking forward to becoming part of the community,'' said company spokesman Vince Parker.
The store manager and co-manager will likely be trained at other stores, but the company will hire between 30 to 50 local employees for jobs ranging from cashiers to picture framers. Pay for full-time employees will start at $14 an hour — $9.50 for part-timers. Applications will be taken approximately three to four weeks before the store opens.
Mattress Firm expects construction to begin soon on its 4,600-square-foot space in the shopping plaza. Two to three employees will likely be brought in from another store, said company communication coordinator Tammy Friedeck.
Meghan Kennedy, manager of corporate communications for the Vitamin Shoppe, said that store should open by the end of the year, with more details coming in the months ahead.