Benderson buys, plans to renovate Landings Shopping Center

Company will spruce up the center built in 1988; is in talks with new tenants to fill the voids.

By Roger Drouin

The Landing Shopping Center has a new owner, and before next tourism season arrives, the plaza will have a refreshed look and some new tenants.

Through a foreclosure auction Jan. 24, Benderson Development Co. — which owns and manages over 700 properties nationally and is headquartered in Lakewood Ranch — purchased the large center that has been plagued over the recent years by vacancies. The company plans to undertake a renovation estimated to be completed this summer, as well as improving landscaping.

As these improvements start, Benderson also will work to fill empty storefronts in the center. The development firm expects to have the center re-tenanted by next winter, Todd Mathes, Director of Development at Benderson, told Siesta Sand.

But the first order of business, Mathes said, included a walking tour of the property by Benderson representatives, as they check on what deferred-maintenance issues need to be addressed as well as aspects to include in renovation work — since the foreclosure purchase was made without inspection. “We are walking the property, getting to know it,” Mathes said.

Nearby residents, meanwhile, have voiced relief that the center, which has been struggling to fill retail spaces over the past few years and went into foreclosure last year, will get some new life. “We are all thrilled,” said Bill Whitman, president of The Landings Homeowners Association, Inc. Whitman pointed to Pelican Plaza, to the south, as an example of how Benderson can turn around an older shopping plaza. Whitman said that kind of improvement will be a welcome change at the Landings Center; he heard from a retailer who has long since moved out of the center that the previous Michigan-based owner did not respond to necessary maintenance needs.

The Landings Shopping Center was built in 1988, and the Pelican Plaza was built in 1983, and both centers were in need of sprucing up before Benderson purchased the retail centers. Pelican Plaza, across from Westfield Sarasota Square, had a good number of vacancies when Benderson purchased it in 2012, yet now it's home to top retailers such as Ulta Beauty, Total Wine and More, Petco, and a Sprouts Farmers Market that is slated to open in April.

A key factor

With a prime location next to residential areas and easy access to U.S. 41, there’s big potential for the Landings center, says commercial realtor Ron Flynn. Based on Benderson’s previous local projects, Flynn believes the purchase will bring a solid foundation, as the company will invest in the property’s upkeep and appearance. Perhaps most importantly, Flynn believes the company will study the kind of retailers that will fit in the market for the area. “It’s good news for the community,” said Flynn, who lives on Siesta and shops at the center.

However, the caliber of new tenants at the center — and specifically which retailer Benderson lands to fill the void at the 30,171-square-foot anchor space left vacant when Office Depot left in late 2015 — will be a key factor in the level of success of the center. “What will be key is the tenant that fills the Office Depot space,” Flynn told Siesta Sand.

Mathes told Siesta Sand that the company is in talks with a potential tenant about the possibility of moving into the Office Depot space. In addition, the company is “actively making a decision in which way to point the center.”

Mathes said the company believes the Landings center and the company’s proposed mixed-use Siesta Promenade, which includes a retail component, are two separate projects that serve distinct areas.

Financial information for the Landings center transaction, such as the sales prices was not disclosed, and was not yet available on the county’s property appraiser website as of press time.

More than a dozen of the roughly 30 retail spaces in the center that had been owned by the Landings of Sarasota Florida LLC. remain vacant, and Benderson has plans to start filling them.

The shopping center is located on U.S. 41 just outside The Landings community, but neither the plaza nor its owner, Landing of Sarasota Florida LLC is affiliated with The Landings or the LMA in any way.

an improvement”

Whitman believes with Benderson at the helm, the center that borders his community can once again become a destination shopping center. Easy access from U.S. 41 to several residential areas, in addition to The Landings’ 700 residences, make it a great location. In addition, many Landings residents walk or bike to the plaza.

Whitman said many residents love going to Gecko’s Grill and Pub, the chain’s original location, and other staple businesses in the center. His wife shops at the Dollar Tree. Whitman said he’d like to see perhaps a few new restaurants inside the center to replace some of the restaurants that struggled to stay open, or perhaps a café where patrons can sit outside with their dogs. But merely maintaining the property the way it should be taken care of and meeting the needs of tenants “will be an improvement.”

According to the lis pendens suit filed in December, 2015 in the Circuit Court of the 12th Judicial Circuit, the Plaintiff, U.S. Bank, National Association, as trustee for Morgan Stanley Capital Inc., had instituted the foreclosure filing against the owner, Landings of Sarasota Florida LLC. A total of at least three parcels — filling about 93,000 square feet of indoor space — within the center were included in the foreclosure suit. However, the free-standing buildings near the shopping center — including Sweet Tomatoes and Olive Garden — are separately owned and were not impacted by the foreclosure proceedings. In addition, the parcel that houses the Publix grocery space, 4840 S. Tamiami Trail, is also separately owned, by Publix Super Markets Inc., and thus was not impacted by the proceedings or recent sale.

The plaza, at 4800 S. Tamiami Trail, was built in 1988, according to Sarasota County Property Records. Centrally located on Tamiami Trail, the shopping center is one of the largest in the county, but had been hit with a spate of vacant storefronts, including Office Depot. Starting in 2014, the national office retailer began closing hundreds of stores nationally.