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Westfield Brandon plans $50-million expansion

By MARK ALBRIGHT
Published December 30, 2005


BRANDON - The owner of Westfield Brandon plans to announce on Jan. 11 a $50-million expansion of the mall that would open in spring 2007.

Westfield Group, which has made no secret it has been planning an addition for the past three years, on Thursday confirmed the price, completion time and the size of the 150,000-square-foot addition.

The extension off the western front door to the mall's center court will be an outdoor-oriented lifestyle center with restaurants and shops.

"We'll explain all the details we can when we unveil the plans," said mall manager David Josker.

The Australian mall developers are negotiating with county officials over how to handle the extra traffic. The mall is on Interstate 75 and flanked by two major congested highways - State Route 60 and the terminus of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway.

Westfield is proposing to give up development rights granted years ago to build more office space and residential projects on their property in return for their not kicking in millions more pledged to expand adjacent highways to serve them. Because there are few parallel north/south roads in the neighborhood, the mall road network carries a lot of nonmall traffic. Part of the plan in discussion would add lanes to the mall access road at State Route 60, which is routinely backed up, said Biff Crane, a Tampa lawyer guiding negotiations for Westfield.

Westfield, which owns 68 malls in the United States, has not identified possible tenants nor indicated how far it is in negotiations with them. A variety of chains are looking for space in the Tampa Bay area ranging from Kohl's to Dick's Sporting Goods, a Sports Authority clone that recently said its first store in the region will be in the Groves at Wesley Chapel. The Brandon mall is known to have approached Old Navy.

The expansion would make the Brandon mall, which has been neck-and-neck with International Plaza among Tampa Bay malls in traffic with 10-million shoppers, almost as large as its five largest rivals in the market. Each of them cover about 1.2-million square feet. The Brandon mall covers 987,000 square feet after recently adding a Sam Seltzer's Steak House. The mall projects the population of 530,000 people living in its primary trading area will grow about 13 percent within three years.

The Brandon mall had been the region's second most popular shopping destination, but its traffic slipped 7 percentage points to fifth place in 2005. According to the 2005 Scarborough Report, 25 percent of Tampa Bay metro area adult shoppers said they had been to International Plaza in the past 90 days. The same figure for the Brandon mall fell from 24 to 17 percent in 2005.

After buying the Brandon, Countryside and Citrus Park malls in the Tampa Bay area and Sarasota Square and Southgate Shopping Center in Sarasota in the past four years, Westfield pledged upgrades and expansions at all its Florida West Coast properties. A $50-million renovation and expansion of Sarasota Square is under way.

The Brandon addition is part of a larger rethinking that all malls go through as they mature and retail trends change.

Over the next three years, 65 of the original store leases in the decade-old mall are up for renewal. That means tenants are being shuffled around as stores expand or contract to the amount of business they think they can do there. Stores typically remodel to renew while those that drop out are replaced. The process brought several resized storefronts and new retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Hot Topic, Lady Foot Locker and Ann Taylor Loft to Brandon. With 170 stores and kiosks, the Brandon mall is 98 percent leased.

Times staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report. Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or 727 893-8252.

[Last modified December 30, 2005, 00:56:10]


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