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New arrivals, upgrades give Brandon mall a fresher look

A Westfield Shoppingtown Brandon official says expiring leases prompted the shift.

By EDDY RAMIREZ
Published April 8, 2005


These days, the selection at the food court in Westfield Shoppingtown Brandon is a little sparse. Several restaurants, including Sbarro Italian Eatery, have closed, leaving some wondering if trouble is brewing inside the 170-store mall.

"We've had customers come in and ask if the mall is closing down," said David Josker, general manager.

His reply? Absolutely not.

As 10-year leases come up for renewal, many stores and restaurants are making cosmetic or structural changes. Some shops are relocating, remodeling or expanding and new businesses are moving in. In all, the leases of 65 retailers, or 45 percent of the mall's shops, expire this year.

Josker said most retailers are staying put. He said the changes stem from customer feedback.

"It gives us an opportunity after being here 10 years to refresh things a bit," Josker said.

When the mall formerly known as Brandon Town Center opened in 1995, it was a 974,000-square-foot regional destination.

A million visitors passed through its doors just in the first 17 days. Over the years, the mall, which has grown to 986,503 square feet, has served as an unofficial downtown for Brandon and teens like Kayla Altenburg.

"Everyone still hangs out here and some of my friend even work here," the 19-year-old Altenburg said.

While the shopping center remains popular, mall officials say new regional malls such as International Plaza and a proposed mall in Pasco County threaten to detour some customers.

"It's all about staying ahead of the curve," said marketing director Taylor Clifton of the recent changes at the mall. "There's a lot of competition in the area."

By summer, four new restaurants will open in the food court, including a Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse. Famous for its large steaks, the restaurant will seat 200 people and feature an outside entrance. The court's three other restaurants include Panda Express, Hibachi-San and Villa Pizza, which replaces Sbarro.

Several retail shops, including Lady Foot Locker and Victoria's Secret, have expanded or changed their storefronts.

Retail shops that have closed are being replaced by shops such as Buckle, a young men's and women's fashion apparel store. Zales Jewelers will open next to Lane Bryant near the east entrance and Cell Depot wireless products and services will open alongside Kirklands.

Mall officials hope a new carousel, installed this week, attracts more families. Shipped from Italy, the double-decker carousel with hardwood floors will occupy 2,400 square feet in the center of the mall. The carousel will debut just in time for the shopping center's 10th-year anniversary celebration on April 16. The ceremony, which will also feature circus performers, runs 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

In addition to the changes he mentioned inside the mall, Josker said traffic consultants and engineers are looking into ways to alleviate the traffic jams from the mall entrance on State Road 60.

Plans are in the works to build a separate entrance from Gronto Lake Road in the coming years.

In the meantime, Josker said visitors could avoid the traffic-induced headaches by taking alternate entrances, such as Providence Road.

Clifton recalls the days when the mall was once a cow pasture and how the mall has become part of Brandon.

"So many people who live in the Brandon area had their kids' first pictures with Santa taken here," Clifton said. "Couples came here to shop for their engagement rings.

"This is already a great mall, we're just taking it to the next level."

Eddy Ramirez can be reached at eramirez@sptimes.com or 661-2441. GONE:

A&W Hot Dogs and More

Flamers

Great Panda

Little Tokyo

Nature's Table Cafe

Sbarro Italian Eatery

Smoke n' Snuff

The Athlete's Foot

Morrow's Fine Candy & Nuts

Deck the Walls

Prints Plus

Casual Corner

Petite Sophisticate

Wet Seal

EXPANDING/COMING SOON:

Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse

Cajun Big Easy

Villa Pizza

Panda Express

Hibachi-San

Lady Foot Locker

Foot Locker Victoria's Secret

Mastercuts

Ann Taylor Loft

Cell Depot

Buckle

Zales

[Last modified April 7, 2005, 08:55:10]


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