Hotels, offices, grocery store set to replace University Mall stores in North Tampa

Demolition crews are busy at the former University Mall in North Tampa as old department stores are felled in favor of new developments catering to a new generation of clientele.
Fowler Avenue landmark Sears Auto Center, which closed a few months ago, opened in 1975 alongside a Sears department store that was razed in 2020. The Center is currently undergoing demolition. The remaining property will be part of redevelopment efforts underway on the east side of the mall property, including the construction of new premier hotel.
“The hotel will be approximately six stories with a rooftop food and beverage experience and views of the Busch Gardens rollercoasters, fireworks and downtown Tampa,” says RD Management Chief Development Strategist Chris Bowen. 

“The hotel will be taller in height than the Hub’s apartments and parking garage,”
Soaring City Innovation Partnership hosts “Growing Resilient Communities,” including a March 31 Uptown community round table discussion and an April 1 “Building the Metaverse City” breakfast discussion.
Bowen continues, noting two new developments on the northeast side of the mall property that will eventually be accompanied by four mixed-used office towers totaling 1-million-square-feet in space.
Meanwhile, major redevelopments are about to overtake the mall’s front-and-center anchor Dillard’s, situated in a two-story box that opened in 1974 as Tampa-based department store Maas Brothers; it later housed Burdines and was transformed into Macy’s. The sand-colored building is slated for demolition sometime in late spring or early summer to make way for three structures totaling around 110,000 square feet. 

This new development just north of the intersection of Fowler Avenue and North 22nd Street will sport a Burlington department store, Sprouts grocery store, and 30,000 square feet of additional tenant space. Burlington currently operates in a one-story anchor building toward the rear of the mall, while the entry of Sprouts will offer the Uptown District one of its first new grocery stores in years and provide a much-desired healthy shopping option along the Fowler Avenue corridor. 

Other developments inside the mall are bringing a wide range of new features that are transforming what was once a suburban retail hub into a multi-modal mixed-use community. Among the changes inside is the addition of a 7,000-square-foot lecture hall and conference center for the Soaring City !nnovation Partnership, formerly known as Tampa’s Innovation Partnership or !p. 

“This new Soaring City facility will become a gathering place for community innovators and will bring out the best in entrepreneurial spirit and accomplishment that Uptown has to offer,” remarks Bowen, who adds blackboXXcelerator is another community hub opening on the second floor of the mall. “With the contribution of this space, Soaring City !p will have over 10,000 square feet in operation for headquarters, classrooms, conferences, coworking, and other activities related to further developing Uptown’s arts and sciences tech community ecosystem.” 

One of the next major events to be hosted in these innovative conference spaces is the “Growing Resilient Communities Uptown Round Table Event.” The gathering is designed to bring local community leaders, local officials, and neighborhood stakeholders together to share ideas and information about Tampa’s Uptown community and offer solutions to issues affecting the region, including poverty, homelessness, hunger, and education inequities. 

The roundtable discussion takes place March 31, 2022, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and will be followed the next day, April 1, 2022, by a “Building the Metaverse City” discussion with Rony Abovitz and Guy Gilliland from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Following this will be an Uptown Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting for the blackboXXcelerator and a launch ceremony for the Growing Resilient Communities program at 10:30 a.m. 

Learn more and register for the events at Soaring City Innovation Partnership.
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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.