Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Business

University Mall in Tampa poised — to do something

Sadly, Tampa's University Mall has become the shopping center most people don't think about.

JCPenney left years ago. Dillard's converted its store to a clearance center (and recently reduced hours to open at noon most days). Then, earlier this year, the movie theaters closed.

The mall fought back with a $10 million makeover, adding new furniture in the food court and corridors, family-friendly restrooms and a pirate-themed kids' play area, one of the best around, in my opinion.

But it hasn't been enough. Efforts to find another anchor yielded little. And while the mall still has a lot of stores, the parking lots usually look eerily empty. Without a Grimaldi's or Red Robin — or any sit-down restaurant — it's just not a destination like other area malls. Honestly, what's worse is that people don't feel safe there.

So I was intrigued to learn that University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft and John Long, the school's chief operating officer, recently met with Lee Arnold, Rhea Law and a few other business leaders to talk about University Mall. Arnold is the top guy in Tampa Bay for Colliers International, a commercial real estate company. Law is a prominent land use lawyer and chief executive officer of the Tampa law firm Fowler White Boggs. Both have deep roots at USF and served on the board of trustees.

Law said the meeting focused on ongoing efforts to redevelop the entire area, not just the mall along Fowler Avenue, and served more as a status update. Arnold said through a spokesman that he didn't want to discuss the meeting.

Based on past speculation, anything could be possible, from closing the mall entirely, to selling it, to adding mixed-used towers — a plan that has been on the books for years. Dallas-based Lone Star Funds, which took over the mall last year, isn't saying a word.

We've got Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday and other corporate concocted shopping days. Add this one to the mix: Orange Tuesday.

BuySeasons, owner of buycostumes.com and other costume and party supply websites, coined the term to establish the Tuesday after Labor Day as the kickoff to the Halloween shopping season.

And it's taking it seriously. The Los Angeles Times reported last week that the company filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to protect the phrase. Apparently, the online retailer found that web traffic nearly doubles from August to the first week in September and wanted to capitalize on it with a one-day Halloween sale.

On Tuesday, buycostumes.com will have discounts of up to 50 percent on some costumes and Black Friday-esque door-buster deals dubbed "grave busters."

Big Lots' prominence rose big time during the recession as shoppers looked for deals on everything from futons to fig bars. Now, in the face of stiff competition and an improved economy, it's seeking a second wind.

The publicly traded company (BIG on the New York Stock Exchange) is upgrading stores nationwide and last week finished remodeling projects at 15 stores in the Tampa Bay area. Stores installed new flooring and ceilings, updated fixtures and improved the lighting. Food — a top-selling item for the chain — was consolidated to aisles near the checkouts, and the furniture section was expanded.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110. Follow her on Twitter at @susan_thurston.

Comments
Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

Clearwater looks to move out of City Hall to speed up Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment

CLEARWATER — Elected officials have talked about relocating City Hall from the downtown bluff for a good 30 years. Now there’s a jolt of urgency to actually do it.Voters backed a referendum in November that essentially greenlighted the $55 million re...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Shrinking supply of Tampa Bay condos and townhomes drives up prices

Sales of condos and townhomes in the Tampa Bay area jumped 9.5 percent in March, hitting a median of $156,000. The price gain was prompted in part by a supply shortage, with sales down 7.5 percent amid a dwindling inventory. Statewide, sales also lag...
Published: 04/25/18
Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

Three artists picked to create art for St. Pete’s new pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Pelicans will return to the pier in fanciful form.A California artist has been selected to create an enormous, red origami sculpture of a pelican that will serve as a metal perch for three more lifelike, but no less fanciful, imitati...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Career Q&A: Disillusioned with grind of telecommute

Q: I have become very disillusioned with my telecommuting job. I accepted this position about a year ago because I liked the idea of working from home. However, I now have so many assignments that I can barely keep up. I was recently given a huge pro...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

Pinellas County commits $41.7 million to Blue Jays Stadium

DUNEDIN — The Pinellas County Commission pulled the final trigger Tuesday on dedicating $41.7 million in bed taxes for upgrades to the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium and spring training facilities, a pledge that amounts to covering more than half of the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida’s small businesses need more skilled workers, survey says

Florida small business owners say their top concern is a lack of skilled workers, according to a recent survey by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Workforce quality has been a recurring issue for small businesses, according to previous surveys. In th...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

Marriott CEO: Our three-hotel bet at Water Street Tampa reflects how Tampa is evolving

TAMPA — The world’s biggest hotel company already has 29 properties in the Tampa Bay area, but its CEO says a plan to put more than 1,400 rooms in three Marriott-branded hotels within a few blocks of each other says something about how Tampa is evolv...
Published: 04/24/18
Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

Study ranks Florida No. 8 for most aggressive drivers

If you’ve ever complained about other motorists on the road, you may have been justified. The Sunshine State ranked No. 8 on GasBuddy.com’s list of states with the most aggressive drivers."Our findings indicate that states with densely populated citi...
Published: 04/24/18
First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

First curbside delivery, now Amazon leaves packages with no one in the car

Amazon is taking the growing curb-side delivery trend a step further — now shoppers don’t even have to be inside their cars to get their items.The online retailer announced Tuesday it has begun delivering packages to newer cars with OnStar service in...
Published: 04/24/18
Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

Ex-Yahoo paying $35M to settle SEC charges over 2014 hack

WASHINGTON — The company formerly known as Yahoo is paying a $35 million fine to resolve federal regulators’ charges that the online pioneer deceived investors by failing to disclose one of the biggest data breaches in internet history. The Securiti...
Published: 04/24/18