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JCPenney planned for Wiregrass Commons

The store would be the largest of three anchors in the shopping mall proposed for a fragment of the 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch.

Published October 22, 2004

WESLEY CHAPEL - J.C. Penney Co., known for its hundreds of mall stores across the United States, could build one of its increasingly popular stand-alone stores in central Pasco County.

The northeast corner of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, in a proposed shopping center called Wiregrass Commons, is the proposed home of the JCPenney prototype store.

The single-story store of about 95,000 square feet would offer most of the clothes and household items sold in the company's larger mall stores except furniture. Employees could number up to 200.

Neither J.C. Penney Co. nor the Goodman Co., Wiregrass Commons' developer, would confirm the store's plans, though J.C. Penney Co.'s selection of Wesley Chapel has been a topic of conversation in real estate circles.

Among the clues offered by Goodman is that it expects to open a "mall-style" anchor at SR 56 and Bruce B. Downs in late 2005. Goodman's plans showed a building of 98,000 square feet, almost a perfect fit for the prototype JCPenney.

"I can tell you that's one area we're looking at," J.C. Penney Co. spokesman Quinton Crenshaw said of the company's interest in the Tampa Bay area.

Based in Plano, Texas, the retailer runs about 1,018 department stores in the United States, 80 percent in malls. But with shopping center developers building fewer traditional malls - the trend now is toward open-air lifestyle centers - J.C. Penney Co. has had to keep pace.

"With the limited amount of mall development, we still need the opportunity to be in these fast-growing markets," Crenshaw said.

It opened its first modern stand-alone stores 11 months ago. The newfangled JCPenneys pride themselves on having wider aisles, improved lighting, faster customer service and cash registers up front.

The retailer retooled its image in part to fend off a challenge from the Kohl's department store chain of Wisconsin.

Kohl's hasn't opened in Florida yet, but company representatives embarked on a "property tour" of the Tampa Bay area earlier this month, real estate brokers said.

Wiregrass Commons, to be built on a fragment of the 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch east of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, is projected to have 170,000 square feet of stores.

The JCPenney would be the largest, followed by two other anchors of 38,500 and 25,500 square feet, according to construction plans filed with Pasco's development office.

[Last modified October 22, 2004, 01:09:27]

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