Make us your home page

Troubled Trinity Town Center hires new president and gets back in hunt for tenants

TRINITY — For about seven years it has sat mostly empty, with some of its cream-colored buildings only partly finished. The upscale boutiques and restaurants promised in news releases never happened. It was supposed to have the county's first parking garage, but the Shops at Wiregrass snagged that honor.

But now Trinity Town Center is actively seeking tenants.

The retail complex, at Little Road and Trinity Boulevard, is owned by Bill Planes, a Tarpon Springs man who once served three years in federal prison for embezzling $140,000 from a South Florida mortgage company.

Planes, who last made the news in 2012 when he was arrested and quickly released during a financial dispute with an Orange County software firm, has retreated to the background, opting instead for a new face to lease the 66 spaces in the shopping center surrounded by posh neighborhoods.

Enter Chuck Puccini, the former president and CEO of Bauer Foundation Corp., and the 2012 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

"I drove by this place every day for years," said Puccini, 50, who has a smile worthy of a toothpaste commercial. "It has so much potential."

The center has announced its first new tenant in seven years, Surf & Turf Market, which recently closed its location in Palm Harbor to move to Trinity. The market offers fresh seafood, aged steaks, a deli and produce. Raymond James has maintained a branch office there since 2007.

Crews were installing wiring in the store last week.

Puccini said other tenants have committed to open at Trinity Town Center, but he declined to name names, saying "we let the tenants do that when they're ready."

One task Puccini is working on as president of the operation is making sure the partly complete structures meet current codes. Those have changed since 2008, making the job a challenge.

Still, he said county officials have been supportive.

"The area is really screaming for great places," said County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, whose district includes the town center and surrounding neighborhoods. She said the center's location is a plus. So is its Mediterranean-style architecture. "I'm happy for the all the Trinity residents who may have a nice little corner to visit and congregate."

Starkey said she met with Planes several weeks ago and said he praised the county's new permitting process, which was developed while the center sat empty.

"He says he sees a big difference," she said.

Crews began building Trinity Town Center in 2007. In November of that year, Aristeo Construction filed a lien worth $485,847. Trinity Town Center sued, saying Aristeo had missed its deadline for filing the lien, but dropped it after the two sides reached a settlement.

More lawsuits followed. Planes' company, South Capital, then sued the companies doing business at Trinity Town Center. Records show some of the cases have been resolved.

Trinity Town Center took out a fifth mortgage in July for $102,000, records show, but still owes $1.3 million in loans. The county tax bill is nearly $73,000 and is due by April 1.

Records show Planes had a final home foreclosure judgment for $1.3 million in 2012. And his wife, Regina, filed for divorce last year.

Planes' financial troubles, coupled with the recession, left the town center dormant. County officials gave Planes deadlines to clean up the debris on the site. He complied.

Now the economy is starting to come back, with new home sites being cleared on State Road 54 just east of the town center and officials are celebrating the construction of a spec office building in Wesley Chapel, the first to be built since 2008.

"We've still got a long way to go," said Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James. "But you have to crawl before you can walk."

He said while people aren't using their home equity as ATMs for cars and vacations, they do feel more confident.

"They're feeling a bit wealthier," he said. "They should be able to go out to eat a little more often."

That's what Puccini is hoping for as he works to lure tenants. He touts the center's advantages over a traditional strip mall.

"It has synergy," he said. "A person can drop their child off at a dance studio upstairs and go downstairs and have a glass of wine."

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

Troubled Trinity Town Center hires new president and gets back in hunt for tenants 02/14/14 [Last modified: Friday, February 14, 2014 7:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. With successful jewelry line, Durant High alum Carley Ochs enjoys 'incredible ride'



    As a child Carley Ochs played dress up, draped in her grandmother's furs.

    Founder Carley Ochs poses for a portrait in her Ford Bronco at the Bourbon & Boweties warehouse in Brandon, Fla. on September 19, 2017. Ochs is a Durant High and Florida State University graduate.
  2. At Menorah Manor, planning paid off during Irma

    Nursing Homes

    ST. PETERSBURG — Doris Rosenblatt and her husband, Frank, have lived in Florida all of their lives, so they know about hurricanes.

    Raisa Collins, 9, far left, works on a craft project as Certified Nursing Assistant Shuntal Anthony holds Cassidy Merrill, 1, while pouring glue for Quanniyah Brownlee, 9, right, at Menorah Manor in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15. To help keep its patients safe during Hurricane Irma, Menorah Manor allowed employees to shelter their families and pets at the nursing home and also offered daycare through the week. The facility was able to accommodate and feed everyone who weathered the storm there. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. After Irma, nursing homes scramble to meet a hard deadline

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Florida's nursing homes and assisted-living facilities find themselves in an unfamiliar place this week — pushing back against Gov. Rick Scott's administration over new rules that require them to purchase generator capacity by Nov. 15 to keep their residents safe and comfortable in a power …

    In this Sept. 13 photo, a woman is transported from The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills as patients are evacuated after a loss of air conditioning due to Hurricane Irma in Hollywood. Nine have died and patients had to be moved out of the facility, many of them on stretchers or in wheelchairs. Authorities have launched a criminal investigation to figure out what went wrong and who, if anyone, was to blame. [Amy Beth Bennett | South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP]
  4. Trigaux: How Moffitt Cancer's M2Gen startup won $75 million from Hearst


    TAMPA — A Moffitt Cancer Center spin-off that's building a massive genetic data base of individual patient cancer information just caught the attention of a deep-pocketed health care investor.

    Richard P. Malloch is the president of Hearst Business Media, which is announcing a $75 million investment in M2Gen, the for-profit cancer informatics unit spun off by Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center. Malloch's job is to find innovative investments for the Hearst family fortune. A substantial amount has been invested in health care, financial and the transportation and logistics industries.
  5. Three-hour police standoff ends, thanks to a cigarette


    TAMPA — A man threatening to harm himself was arrested by Tampa police on Tuesday after a three-hour standoff.