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Tyrone mall to get a makeover

Tyrone Square Mall is getting a makeover. One of the 33-year-old property's biggest eyesores will be transformed into its new front door.

Simon Property Group will spend about $4-million turning what has been a barren white wall into a new lineup of restaurants, storefronts and an entrance facing Tyrone Boulevard in west St. Petersburg.

"We'll be literally turning the mall inside out to enhance what's been termed our ugly, old concrete facade," said Lita Sargent, general manager of the dominant mall in south Pinellas County. "It's going to be very cutting edge."

Construction begins shortly that will force more than a dozen Tyrone merchants to move out of the way while a 40,000-square-foot corner of the mall near Sears is rebuilt. One store, Perfume World, will be relocated three times during the musical chairs game.

Complicating the transition is the loss of four stores in the next few weeks owned by struggling retail chains: the Limited, Athlete's Foot, Baker's and Wet Seal. Victoria's Secret, Tyrone's most prosperous in-line store, will relocate for four months, then end up in the space now occupied by the Limited with the latest prototype Victoria's Secret and Beauty store.

By the time the dust settles in time for next Christmas, Tyrone, which has 170 stores, will gain three new retailers, two sit-down casual restaurants and a heavily landscaped parking lot. The 11 storefronts vacated will be replaced with 11 smaller ones. The 3-decade-old parking lot light poles also will be updated with something more decorative.

City officials welcomed the change. For years city planners used pictures of the barren exterior wall and the adjacent vegetation-free stretch of asphalt as an example of the type of sterile parking lot they discourage.

"Hopefully the city now will have an "after' picture to add to their presentation," Sargent said.

Mall officials are close to deals to fill all of the new spaces, but declined to identify the new restaurants or apparel stores. All will open directly onto a new network of sidewalks leading to a new entrance that will emerge next to the FYE music store. The new restaurants also will have outdoor cafe seating.

Simon has been slowly upgrading the 1972 vintage mall piecemeal to catch up with rivals with additions such as a food court, a Tia's Tex-Mex restaurant and Borders Bookstore. But the arrival of three new malls and the overhaul of WestShore Plaza in Tampa have siphoned off many Pinellas mall shoppers.

The upgrades have not been easy. Neighborhood associations fought virtually all the expansion and even sued the owners of a new Macaroni Grille to force them to add more promised landscaping a few years ago. This time the Jungle Terrace Civic Association endorsed the required parking variance because the mall will not get any bigger, only house more stores. The mall is giving up 33 of its 5,042 parking spaces to landscaping and potted plants for the new entrance.

"It's good for business, good for jobs and good for people who like to dine out," said Tom Killian, Jungle Terrace president.

Developers have radically changed the mall formula since Tyrone was built. In the old days mall entrances were few to force shoppers to linger longer.

Now, shoppers want to get in and out quickly. Retailers used to want lots of backroom storage, but now speedier replenishment technology means they don't tolerate renting nonproductive space.

Tyrone also has been hamstrung by its ultradeep (about 160 feet) but narrow storefronts while the current retail trend is for wider and shallow ones with more inviting display space at the front entrance. The new plan will gut 11 current long and skinny storefronts and reconfigure the space for 14 storefronts and the new entrance.

Mark Albright can be reached at albrightsptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

An artist's rendering depicts Tyrone Square Mall's "lifestyle center" off Tyrone Boulevard in St. Petersburg. It's expected to be ready for Christmas and, says Lita Sargent, mall general manager, "We'll be literally turning the mall inside out to enhance what's been termed our ugly, old concrete facade."

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