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The afterlife of Tampa Sears: major demolition and a $5.5 million sale

This is what developers plan for the old Sears stores at University Mall and Citrus Park.

TAMPA — The backhoes are roaming the parking lot, shoveling debris in front of the old Sears at University Mall as developers make way for the future ‘Uptown District.'

Soon, the more than 200,000-square-foot department store space will be no more.

When Sears announced it was leaving the mall in November of 2018, RD Management, the property owners, were already plotting the space’s future. The plans include expansive offices, hotel rooms, restaurants, shops and apartments — what developers call a “mixed-use project.”

Related: The future of University Mall in Tampa is that it won't be a mall anymore

RD Management hopes to capitalize on the neighboring University of South Florida by turning a dated suburban mall into a buzzing research hub.

On the west side of Hillsborough County, the former Sears at Westfield Citrus Park has a new owner. That store closed in August of 2018.

A rendering of what RD plans for its Uptown District project. [ s9Architecture ]

A Miami-based corporation purchased the 128,000-square-foot property in December for $5.5 million. It was sold off by a company tied to former Sears CEO Eddie Lampert, according to property records.

The new owner named its company after the property’s address, 7902 Citrus Park Town Center. It used Miami law firm Simple Legal to handle the sale. The deed did not state the law firm’s client. But David Goldfarb, owner of arcade game rental business PrimeTime Amusements, told the Tampa Bay Business Journal he would be involved in store space’s redevelopment.

Goldfarb was out of the country this week and could not be reached for comment.

Goldfarb has a sister company, Xtreme Action Park, in Fort Lauderdale. The 200,000-square-foot entertainment center has a mix of ropes courses, bowling lanes, go-karts and arcade games. It’s unclear if a similar business could take over that former Sears spot in Citrus Park.

Related: Column: Westfield Citrus Park underscores mall's sense of community with Wild Wonders

A Sears in St. Petersburg that closed several years ago at Tyrone Square mall is now home to a bustling plaza that has a Dick’s Sporting Goods and Lucky’s Market. Part of the former Sears at the Clearwater mall made way for Whole Foods.

RD Management plans to turn its University Mall property on E Fowler Avenue into a city center. The company says it has lease commitments in hand, as well as some that are pending, that it will announce this spring.

Backhoes remove portions of the former Sears at University Mall. Developers plan to have expansive office space, hotels and apartments one day take its place. [ RD Management ]