By Roger Drouin
Several years ago, Pelican Plaza, across from Westfield Sarasota Square Mall, looked much different. A dilapidated façade was the most noteworthy aspect of the mostly-empty plaza. The center had struggled since its former anchor, Linens ’n Things, closed in 2008 following a bankruptcy filing by its parent company.
Then in 2012, Manatee-county based Benderson Co. purchased the 29-year-old strip center for $4 million, and re-opened it three years later after major renovations.
The Pelican Plaza now sports a neat, fresh look, and on two recent weekday mornings, the royal-palm lined parking lot was nearly full and business was brisk at new retailers including anchor Sprouts Farmers Market, Ulta Beauty, and Petco. The stream of cars was steady. On both late mornings, patrons filled the shiny and bright new Starbucks situated on the U.S. 41 side of the center.
Ron Flynn, a commercial realtor with Key Solutions Real Estate, expects the renovated Pelican Plaza will continue to see high customer volumes as more people learn about the fresh look and new stores and as the last open space is leased inside the plaza. “That plaza is really going to pick up,” Fynn told Siesta Sand /(Landings Eagle).
And just under five miles to the north on Tamiami Trail, the Landings Shopping Center, under Benderson Co. ownership, could follow suit.
The similarities include approximate age: the Landings Shopping Center was built in 1988, while Pelican Plaza was constructed in 1983.
Through a foreclosure auction on Jan. 24, Benderson Development Co. — which owns and manages more than 700 properties nationally — purchased the 584,465-square-foot Landings property that like Pelican Plaza had been plagued by vacancies in recent years.
Work is underway to renovate the Landings Shopping Center and improve the landscaping, with a goal of completing the work by this summer, say Benderson representatives.
Flynn notes the similarities between the two centers, and says the potential at the Landings could be even greater due to higher traffic counts and three separate entrances into the center. Benderson’s recent announcement in early May, three months after purchasing the center, that two popular restaurants — Station 400 and DaRuMa — will open shop in the plaza is a good start, Flynn said.
Locally owned daytime café Station 400 and Teppan-style, Florida-based Japanese chain DaRuMa both plan to open branches and have coming-soon signs hanging at the Landings Center. “That was good news,” for the center and local patrons, Flynn said. The commercial realtor said DaRuMa could fill a void left when the popular Jo-To Japanese Restaurant on Siesta Key closed earlier this spring. “They had a following,” he said of Jo-To restaurant. “DaRuMa will probably attract a lot of that following.”
More leases expected
More lease announcements at the Landings center are expected to come soon. Mark Chait, Benderson’s executive director of Florida leasing, told Siesta Sand he couldn’t disclose specifics of talks with other prospective retailers, but he said the firm expected to announce more leases in the near future.
“We are very attune to how a variety of mixes would fit and enhance the shopping center, and the area,” Chait said. “We are working with several prospective tenants and will be making other announcements soon.”
When asking whether a new Starbucks — similar to the Pelican Plaza store — was a possibility in the Landings, Chait declined to comment on any possible tenant. Chait did, however, acknowledge that such a café seems conceptually to be a good fit in the Landings center.
Flynn said that the new Starbucks was a “golden” addition at the Pelican Plaza, and would be a significant announcement at the Landings, as well.
Depending on the overall slate of other announcements, Flynn said he predicts the Landings center could become more of a destination, than just a shopping strip mall.
Benderson has a strong track record of attracting larger and national retailers to their properties, as evidenced at the Pelican Plaza. In addition, retailers will consider many factors when deciding where to locate, Flynn said, and the Landings will meet some of that criteria — such as spruced-up grounds, ample parking, high traffic counts, and the easy ingress and egress from the center. Demographic considerations would also take into account nearby customer bases such as the Landings, Siesta Key, Casey Key, and downtown.
Flynn said he believes Benderson will research retailers and settle on those that will be welcome additions in the market.
One key factor to the center’s success will be which tenant Benderson lands to fill the old Office Depot space that has been vacant since late 2015.
Several freestanding buildings adjacent to the center, including Sweet Tomatoes and Olive Garden, have other owners, and the Publix grocery store, located at 4840 S. Tamiami Trail, is owned by Publix Super Markets, and thus was also not impacted by the shopping center’s foreclosure proceedings or recent sale to Benderson.
The plaza, whose address is 4800 S. Tamiami Trail, is one of the largest shopping centers of its style in the county.