TAMPA, FL (FOX 13) – The construction of the University Mall in Tampa began Tuesday morning and, hope developers, it will eventually turn the property into an innovation center.
During the first phase of the project, the teams are demolishing part of the shopping center to make way for a bridge. The former J.C. Penney store will be turned into a technology and office building.
The plans also include health and fitness studios, an apartment complex and the beautification of an adjacent lake.
"We are going to build a village of innovation," said Mark Sharpe, executive director of Tampa Innovation Partnership. "We will build a mixed-use work-play-work development that will stimulate economic development and activity around Tampa Bay and West Florida."
The University Mall was built in 1974 and became the main shopping venue in Tampa in the 1970s and 80s. In recent years, however, it had turned into a partially abandoned relic.
RD Management purchased the property in 2014 for $ 29.5 million. Developers believe that the proximity of the USF, the Moffitt Cancer Center and the VA Hospital make the property an ideal venue for this type of project.
"This is an area of enormous potential," said Tampa Councilman Luis Viera. "Such developments have put the city, county and our community more widely aware of what is happening in the university and in the North Tampa area."
A main part of the shopping center will probably remain intact, with the current 113 tenants being able to stay.