Company also in talks with new tenants to fill the voids
Before the 2017-18 tourism season arrives, The Landings Shopping Center — which has a new owner — is expected also to have a refreshed look and a number of new tenants.
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 property that has been plagued by vacancies in recent years. A representative of the firm, which is headquartered in Lakewood Ranch, says Benderson plans to renovate the shopping center and improve the landscaping, with a goal of completing the work this summer.
As that activity gets underway, Benderson employees also will be working to fill about a dozen empty storefronts of the approximately 30 in the center. The development firm expects to have a new mix of tenants by next winter, Todd Mathes, the firm’s director of development, told Siesta Sand.
But the first order of business, Mathes said, has been an in-depth survey of the property by Benderson representatives, so they can check on deferred-maintenance issues that need to be addressed and compile a list of items to be tackled during the renovations. He added that the firm bought the property without an inspection.
“We are walking the property, getting to know it,” Mathes said.
Meanwhile, nearby residents have voiced relief that the center has a chance at 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 welcome at The Landings Shopping Center. He noted that he had heard from a retailer who moved out of the complex some time ago that the previous owner — based in Michigan — did not keep up with necessary maintenance.
The Landings Shopping Center was built in 1988, while Pelican Plaza was constructed in 1983. Pelican Plaza, which is situated across from Westfield Sarasota Square, had a good number of vacancies when Benderson purchased it in 2012; yet, it has become home to major retailers such as Ulta Beauty, Total Wine and More and Petco. Additionally, a Sprouts Farmers Market is slated to open there in April.
Although the shopping center stands just outside the entry to The Landings residential community, neither the retail complex nor its previous owner, Landings of Sarasota FL LLC, is affiliated with the neighborhood or its homeowners association in any way, residents say.
A key factor
With a prime location next to residential areas and easy access from U.S. 41, The Landings Shopping Center has big potential, commercial realtor Ron Flynn told Siesta Sand. Based on his knowledge of Benderson’s previous local projects, Flynn believes the company will invest in the property’s appearance and upkeep. Perhaps most importantly, Flynn feels the company will research retailers and settle on those that will be welcome additions in the market.
“It’s good news for the community,” said Flynn, who lives on Siesta Key and shops at the center.
Flynn did call attention to one critical factor relative to the level of success the complex is able to achieve: “What will be key is the tenant that fills the Office Depot space.” He was referring to the 30,171-square-foot anchor site that has been vacant since late 2015. Office Depot began closing locations in 2014 as its business shrank
Mathes told Siesta Sand that the company is in talks with a potential tenant for that space. In addition, he continued, the company is “actively making a decision in which way to point the center.”
Mathes also said Benderson staff believes The Landings center and the company’s proposed mixed-use Siesta Promenade, which includes a retail component, are two separate projects that would serve distinct areas.
Getting to this point
According to the Sarasota County Clerk of Court’s website, a limited liability company linked to Benderson Development paid $20,002 for The Landings Shopping Center. Called 95 ORRPT LLC, its address is 7978 Cooper Creek Blvd., off University Parkway, Florida Division of Corporations records show. The registered agent is Alicia H. Gayton, who is an attorney with Benderson.
According to the Clerk of Court’s records for the 12th Judicial Circuit Court in Sarasota, U.S. Bank National Association, as trustee for Morgan Stanley Capital Inc., instituted the foreclosure proceedings against Landings of Sarasota FL in December 2015. At least three parcels within the shopping center — comprising about 93,000 square feet of indoor space — were included in the case. However, the freestanding buildings adjacent to the complex — including Sweet Tomatoes and Olive Garden — have other owners, so they were not part of the proceedings. Furthermore, the site of the Publix grocery store, located at 4840 S. Tamiami Trail, is owned, by Publix Super Markets; thus, it was not impacted by the proceedings or recent sale, either.
The plaza, whose address is 4800 S. Tamiami Trail, is one of the largest shopping centers of its style in the county.
Whitman of the homeowners group says he believes that with Benderson at the helm, the shopping center once again can become a retail destination. Easy access to it from several residential communities — not just The Landings’ 700 homes — make it a great location, he pointed out.
Many Landings residents walk or bike to the plaza, he added. They love going to Gecko’s Grill and Pub — the chain’s original location — and other popular businesses that remain in the center, Whitman said. His wife shops at the Dollar Tree, for example, he noted.
He would like to see a few new restaurants established, replacing those that struggled to stay open, or perhaps a café where patrons can sit outside with their dogs. But merely maintaining the property adequately, he said, and meeting the needs of tenants “will be an improvement.”