Construction begins on RITHM in Uptown Tampa

The long-promised developments at University Mall in Tampa continue, and the next phase is about to bring some of the most visible changes seen yet at the North Tampa landmark.

In recent days, a yellow crane standing more than 10 stories tall has risen above the site where department store JCPenney operated from the year the mall opened in 1974 through 2005. The crane is working in concert with yellow excavators to remove most of the exterior cladding from the former JCPenney building, which also served as a Steve & Barry’s clothing store from 2006 through 2009.
This current project on the west end of the mall kicks off just weeks after the demolition of the former Sears department store on the east side of the retail complex was completed. As !p Chief Potential Officer Mark Sharpe exclaims, “big things are happening.” Sharpe, who leads the socioeconomic innovation organization formerly known as the Tampa Innovation Alliance, continued, “this project is going to transform not just Uptown, but the world.”
The activity on the west side of the mall will culminate in the creation of a three-story building housing RITHM at Uptown.

RITHM is an acronym that stands for Research, Innovation, Technology, Habitat, and Medicine and speaks to the dynamic redevelopment and future purposes of the 100-acre University Mall property. The retail hub, now serving as Tampa’s second-oldest mall, was purchased by RD Management in 2014 for $29.5 million and is being transformed into a mixed-use development to serve as the focal point of the burgeoning Uptown District.
Hearkening to the forward-thinking nature of the Uptown District, the former JCPenney building won’t be completely scrapped for delivery to a landfill but rather is being upcycled for use in this next phase of mall redevelopment.

“While the JCPenney building demolition will be very extensive, it will also be a very surgical and precise operation,” explains RD Management Chief Development Strategist Chris Bowen. “Unlike the full demo we recently completed on the Sears building, we’ve decided that the JCPenney building is a great candidate for an adaptive reuse project based on the design and uses we have in mind.”
Complete interior demolition has already been finished on the 150,000-square-foot building and demolition work has moved to the exterior.

“The latest and final demo phase will remove a little over 40% of the exterior skin, about 15% of the Floor 2 slab, and most of the roof with the exception of the penthouse structure, which will be incorporated into an indoor/outdoor rooftop club,'' Bowen says. "Once completed, I don’t think you’ll see another building complex quite like this one anywhere else in Tampa Bay.” 

Read more articles by Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez.

Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez is a freelance writer who was born and raised in Tampa. He earned his BA in English from the University of South Florida and spent more than three years as a full-time copywriter for a local internet marketing firm before striking out on his own to write for various blogs and periodicals, including TheFunTimesGuide, CoinValue and COINage magazine. He has also authored local history books, including Images of America: Tampa's Carrollwood and Images of Modern America: Tampa Bay Landmarks and Destinations, which are two titles produced by Arcadia Publishing.