Lenders have filed a foreclosure suit against the owners of University Mall, a once-thriving, 37-year-old Tampa mall transitioning into a mixed-use project in the shadow of the University of South Florida.
Anglo Irish Bank filed the suit in Hillsborough County against investment groups that paid $145 million for the 95-acre property before the real estate market collapsed. Somera Capital Management of Washington, D.C., and New York-based Rockwood Capital borrowed $121 million to make the acquisition, then poured $11 million into renovations.
"For the mall, it's business as usual," said Keily Potter, marketing director with Wheelhouse Management, which runs the property that is currently 90 percent leased. Recently approved changes to the site's master plan freed the owners to market the property as a mixed-use project for hotel, multifamily housing and office development in addition to retail.
In the meantime, a public access TV studio has moved in, Fifth Third Bank filled an abandoned Bennigan's and Fastrain, a computer training school, is setting up shop in the mall. Two bidders are weighing whether to upgrade and reopen the 14-screen theater with stadium seating and digital projection.