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Mall travels the Main Street route for its decor

This crossroads community is finally getting a Main Street. But it will be indoors.

Developers of the community's megamall, Citrus Park Town Center, disclosed plans last week to give the mall a "Main Street, U.S.A." personality.

The center of the mall, marked with street signs, will be the intersection of East Main Street, West Main Street and Citrus Boulevard. The side streets will be Dillard's Avenue, Penney's Avenue, Sears Avenue and Burdines Avenue, named for the mall's biggest tenants.

The developers also promise street lamps, live plants, natural stone floors, storefronts and "countless" skylights.

"I assure you that the Citrus Park Town Center customers will not, and I repeat not, be disappointed," said James L. Czech, executive vice president of the Chicago-based developer, Urban Shopping Centers.

The occasion was the ceremonial groundbreaking for the 1.2-million-square-foot mall and a 450,000-square-foot sister shopping plaza. As photographers clicked away Thursday, Czech and a laughing Dottie Berger, chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Commission, climbed up to the cab of a big, newly bathed Caterpillar loader and watched it scoop up a few feet of earth.

Serious dirt-moving began two months ago on the two centers, which will face each other across Sheldon Road, just west of Gunn Highway. By Thursday, the mall site already looked like a moonscape.

Officials said the shopping plaza, a simpler construction job, should open in fall of next year, in time for holiday shoppers. The mall is to open the next spring, on March 3, 1999.

They also named the mall's fifth major tenant, a 90,000-square-foot Cobb Theater complex with an adjacent three-story parking garage.

Only weeks ago, the Birmingham, Ala.-based Cobb began construction on a 65,000-square-foot, 20-screen complex seven miles away, on Van Dyke Road just west of N Dale Mabry Highway.

Wayne Litzau, the mall's project director, couldn't say Thursday how many screens the Citrus Park complex would have. But anything exceeding 20 screens would be the Tampa Bay area's largest movie house.

Because of the mall and other projects, half of Citrus Park looks like a construction site.

In an agreement with the county, the mall developers have launched 5 miles of road widenings. Meanwhile, the county itself is widening Ehrlich Road north of the mall site and the school district is building Sickles High School near there.

And more construction is planned in the mall's big shadow.

Since Litzau announced his company's plans a year ago, other developers have obtained rezonings for a 145-home subdivision; a 100-seat Cracker-style restaurant; a convenience store; and a complex of stores and town homes with a church and an elderly-care center. A proposal for 100,000 square feet of mini-warehouses just north of the high school is pending.

Nationwide, malls have lost customers in recent years to "big-box" stores like Target, Toys 'R' Us and Circuit City. But the Citrus Park Town Center developers have touted the wealth in northwest Hillsborough, where median household income approaches $50,000 a year, about $15,000 higher than the Hillsborough County average.

"The demographic strength of this area, combined with its growth, not to mention the lack of retail development, makes northwest Hillsborough County a prime location," said Czech.

To hedge its bet, Czech's company has designed the shopping plaza to attract big-box stores, up to 11 of them.

Litzau wouldn't name any of those tenants. "Suffice it to say we have had very strong interest to date," he said.

If you have a story about Keystone, Citrus Park or Odessa, call 226-3472.

Citrus Park Town Center and the Plaza at Citrus Park Town Center

CITRUS PARK TOWN CENTER

144 acres

120 stores

1.2-million square feet

5,800 parking spaces

12 food court tenants

700 food court seats

BIG STORES

Dillard's 225,000 square feet

Burdines 180,000 square feet

JCPenney 126,000 square feet

Sears 124,000 square feet

Cobb Theater, 90,000 square feet, 4,000 seats.

THE PLAZA AT CITRUS PARK TOWN CENTER (across Sheldon Road)

90 acres

450,000 square feet

Opens fall 1998

Stores: to be named

JOBS

1,800 during construction

4,000 after opening, up to 6,000 before Christmas

COMPARISONS

University Mall: 1.35-million square feet

Countryside Mall: 1.15-million square feet

Tampa Bay Center: 880,000 square feet

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