SPRING HILL — Developers of two retail villages are negotiating with tenants that could bring not one but two major bookstore chains to Hernando County, filling a longtime void.
But for a few more months, avid readers will likely have to continue to rely on their library cards and the shelves at stores such as Target and Wal-Mart.
Books-A-Million, based in Birmingham, Ala., is moving toward committing to a store in the shopping center under construction on the west side of U.S. 19, south of Osowaw Boulevard, said Jim Kovacs, a representative of the Colliers Arnold real estate agency in Tampa and Opus Developers.
The center will be anchored by a JCPenney store, which is expected to open late this spring. Kovacs classifies the 350,000-square-foot development as "a regional power center."
A bookstore and other outlets are part of the development's second phase, he said, and should open within about a year, he said, possibly earlier.
Of Books-A-Million, he said: "We're saving a space for them in the property."
On Spring Hill Drive, just east of the Suncoast Parkway, another developer is negotiating with a yet-unnamed book chain to join the retail village that will be anchored by Kohl's, the fourth-largest discount department store outlet in the country.
Spokesman Bob Garrity of developer Regency Centers of Jacksonville said there is nothing yet firm with the book chain.
Garrity and Kovacs said they were impressed to learn that Hernando County has four major library branches. Library system director Barbara Shiflett said she is pleased that major bookstores are considering Hernando.
"There's a strong interest in leisure reading here," she said. "We have a very strong interest in literacy here at the library."
Some 86,000 borrowers were registered in the library system during the past fiscal year, Shiflett said. Visits through library doors numbered 595,560. Materials circulated numbered 671,666.
Other retailers committed to Phase 2 of the center on U.S. 19 include a Cracker Barrel restaurant, Office Depot, a full-size apparel store, a major sporting goods chain, a major electronics chain and a major pet supply chain, Kovacs said.
"Other leases are in advanced stages, but we don't know when they'll be committed," he added.
Likewise, on Spring Hill Drive, McGarrity said negotiations are under way with a number of retailers and restaurants as the village aims for a mix of stores not currently available in Hernando County.
Beth Gray can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.