Furniture giant Ikea has big Tampa plan

The Swedish superstore best known for assemble-it-yourself furniture announces a store will open near Ybor City in 2009.

By James Thorner
Published March 27, 2007

Ikea's affiliation with clean living suggested the Swedish furniture chain might gravitate to the suburban green fields of Interstate 75.

But it was a gritty industrial site between the Port of Tampa and Ybor City that Ikea named Monday as the future home of its third Florida megastore.

A $22-billion global company best known for its blond, assemble-it-yourself furniture, Ikea plans to open the 353,000-square-foot store by the summer of 2009.

The 29-acre site - boxed by Adamo Drive, 22nd Street, the Crosstown Expressway and 26th Street - would employ 400 and draw from the estimated 100,000 Ikea devotees living in and around the Tampa Bay area.

"This is going to be a significant project for the region," Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio said at a presentation of Ikea's plans Monday.

For years, the city has pledged to redevelop the Adamo corridor, which stretches between Tampa and Brandon. Warehouses and X-rated gentlemen's clubs tend to make the biggest impression on passersby.

Wal-Mart tried to buy the proposed Ikea site, called Tampa International Center, for a supercenter in 2005. But Wal-Mart played runnerup to an $11.2-million bid from Panattoni Development Co. of California.

Ikea won't complete the purchase from Panattoni until the city rezones the property. Construction would begin in about a year with the demolition of an old warehouse on the property.

"We're looking forward to improving the environment there," said David Iemolo, Ikea's director of real estate.

Ikea is the largest furniture retailer in the world, and getting larger. It recently broke into post-communist Romania. In the United States it typically builds stores far enough apart to draw from 60 to 80 miles away.

Two Florida stores now under construction and scheduled to open this fall will be smaller than Tampa's. One is at the Mall at Millenia in Orlando; the other in the town of Sunrise west of Fort Lauderdale. Of the stores already open, Atlanta's is the closest.

The company's choice of the Ybor City area was dictated by the need to find a contiguous 30 acres that were priced fairly, well served by roads and owned by a single entity, Iemolo said.

The company hopes to draw regular customers, via the Crosstown Expressway and Interstate 4, from outlying counties such as Pasco, Hernando, Sarasota and Charlotte.

"This is the store for the entire west coast of Florida," city of Tampa economic development director Mark Huey said.

At 353,000 square feet, the Tampa store would be the biggest single retail establishment in the Tampa Bay area. It's a third larger than the biggest Wal-Mart Supercenter and twice the size of the Home Depot on 22nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg, the largest Home Depot east of the Mississippi.

About 1,700 parking spaces would surround the two-story store. An attached 300-seat restaurant would serve inexpensive meals with a Scandinavian flair. Anyone for ligonberries and Swedish meatballs? Stores come with supervised play areas call Smalands, built to look like a Swedish farm house and forest.

The company, which employs 11,000 in the United States, advertises its corporate benevolence. Full benefits are available to employees working as few as 20 hours a week.

James Thorner can be reached at (813) 226-3313 or thorner@sptimes.com.

Fast Facts

Don't know much about Ikea?

- Founded in 1943 by Swede Ingvar Kamprad, whose initials make up the first two letters of the company. The last letters represent the letters of his home village and province.

- The privately held Swedish furniture chain runs 250 stores in 35 countries, including 29 in the United States.

- In 2006, global sales reached $22-billion, nearly double what they were five years earlier. Its original product line contains 10,000 items.

- About 175-million copies of the Ikea catalog are printed each year in 27 languages.

- Stores comes with 300-seat restaurants serving Swedish delicacies like ligonberries, Swedish meatballs and salmon.


Ikea's other Florida plans

Florida's first two Ikea stores will open this fall: one off Interstate 4 in Orlando, the other off Interstate 595 west of Fort Lauderdale.