TAMPA, Fla. — Demolition of the University Mall on Fowler Avenue started Tuesday, February 19 to prepare for the creation of an urban village-style life sciences and technology research park called Uptown.
The struggling shopping center, located at 2200 East Fowler Avenue, was built in 1974 and has been on a slow decline with stores either pulling out due to slow sales or declaring bankruptcy, according to a press release.
Pictures taken by Aerial innovations show a packed parking lot at the University Square mall in 1991. Today, there’s an abundance of available spaces.
"It’s not busy at all. People barely come through here because there’s nothing to come here for," said Celeste Morgan who shops at the mall.
"At first the mall was the center, it’s where everybody came," said Mark Sharpe.
RD Management is working with the Tampa Innovation Alliance in an attempt to breathe new life into the 1,332,205-square-foot facility.
"The approximately 100-acre Uptown project will become a multi-story, urban neighborhood development showcasing life sciences and technology research institutes and complexes; retail, place-making, and recreational opportunities and entertainment; hospitality; education; medical specialties, clinics, and pavilions; corporate offices and co-working spaces; and residential and other related uses," said Richard Birdoff, principal and president of RD Management.
According to a press release, Birdoff wants to create a destination similar to the revamped Channelside District in downtown Tampa.
"This is the first step in an ongoing process of clearing the way," he said. "We are starting at the west side of the property, where we are demolishing an area between the former JCPenney and the existing mall. Our plan for this section includes construction of a pedestrian-oriented street supporting new food and beverage offerings and the redevelopment of the two-story, 160,000-square-foot former JCPenney into a Class A office and technology research complex."
Businesses already in the mall are welcome to stay and be apart of the new vision. Enrique Martinez is the owner of Nerd Culture, "They want us to stay. And we want to stay."
"That’s the only way some of these companies are going to survive, you have to change with the times," Morgan said.