University Mall gets new owner, new future

University Mall is heading for a makeover.

New York-based RD Management is the new owner of most of the enclosed mall's assets. Hillsborough County records show the company paid about $29.5 million for the property, at 2200 E. Fowler Ave.

The anchor stores, Dillard's, Macy's, Sear's and Burlington Coat Factory, appear to be part of the mall's future and are not included in the purchase. New tenants are potentially a warehouse club, fitness center and a grocery store as well as medical offices or student housing. Hints of the mall's future are viewable in a conceptual plan posted on RD Management's website.

Among vacant retail space with big box potential is the nearly 159,000 square feet once occupied by J.C. Penney's. No word on what retailer might move in there, but other RD Management properties lease to BJ's Wholesale Club. One of the company's mixed use redevelopment projects of retail and housing is in Gainesville, next to the University of Florida.

The mall is in proximity to a ready customer base of nearly 47,000 students at the University of South Florida as well as 16,000 faculty and staff, according to RD Management.  But the University area also is close by four hospitals including Florida Hospital and H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, Busch Gardens, office parks and more than 265,000 residents within five miles of the mall.

University Mall has been struggling in recent years to keep up with its competitors and facing growing vacancies. But in October, the mall got a burst of newness when Studio Movie Grill opened in the defunct Regal 16 movie house.

The 14-screen movie house offers restaurant-style dining in the theater, first-run movies, a bar and full lounge. Alternative programming and special events also are offered.

Studio Movie Grill representatives also cite the USF student population and the potential growth in the University area as reason for seeking out a lease at University Mall.
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