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Stores buffed as neighborhood changes

As workers put the finishing touches on a shopping center at Hillsborough Avenue and Memorial Highway, an Albertsons store across the street is undergoing its own renovation. It's an update store officials say should keep it in sync with the changing face of the neighborhood.

"It's certainly one of the reasons for the remodel," said Walt Rubel, spokesman for Albertsons.

The look of the area started to change about three years ago when Monroe's Prestige Group bought the former Hillsborough Square Shopping Center. Developers razed a Kmart and a Kash n' Karry and built a Home Depot.

The giant home improvement store, flanked by a drugstore, bank, restaurants and other retail, is a magnet for customers from Town 'N Country, Westchase and Citrus Park.

"It's a dynamic location because of the intersection of Memorial and Hillsborough," said Ira Waitz, vice president of Monroe's Prestige in Safety Harbor.

The last of the 207,759-square-foot center's retail, an 8,000-square-foot building fronting Hillsborough, is scheduled to be finished in September, Waitz said.

Tenants in the newest section include a barbecue restaurant, furniture store and a UPS store.

Shops recently occupied include an H&R Block and custom frame shop.

"For people not to know where we are, it's getting shockingly busy," said Juan Seminario, whose family owns Frame & Art. "We're getting a lot of walkin business."

Down the walkway from Frame & Art are a store selling Jacuzzis and an Italian restaurant, Bonatoo Restaurante.

The center also will house a dry cleaner, a store that makes signs, a liquor store and hair salon.

Most "should be starting build out inside of 30 days," Waitz said.

Dunkin' Donuts stayed at the center but moved into a new spot near the western boundary of the property and is adjacent to Baskin Robbins Ice Cream and Togo's, a sandwich shop.

Albertsons, meanwhile, which remains open during renovation, will have a grand reopening by this winter, Rubel said.

"Typically it costs $4- to $5-million to replace everything in the store," Rubel said. "We do one section at a time and it takes about 36 weeks."

_ Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 269-5308 or ripleysptimes.com.

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