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New Wal-Mart underscores trend toward redevelopment

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Published:   |   Updated: September 8, 2013 at 09:18 AM

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Walmart is continuing a drive to open more stores across the Tampa Bay area, this time targeting perhaps one of the area’s most-visible, yet mostly vacant shopping complexes.

The retail and grocery giant is in final talks to place a new store at the northeast corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Hillsborough Avenue in a former CompUSA space — part of a redevelopment project that may end up taking down the notorious and now-closed Club Mirage nightclub.

“This could be a thriving property once again,” said Brian Kosoy, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Sterling Organization that manages the site and organizing the redevelopment. “The real estate fundamentals are there. It just needed the right anchor store.”

So called “redevelopment” projects are one of the hottest areas in Florida real estate, as there is a confluence of two forces: Real estate investors are hunting for new projects amid signs of an economic turnaround, yet there is little interest in building ground-up “greenfield” sites in yet-unbuilt suburbs.

That leaves more urban sites as popular targets to either take down and start over, or redevelop with new construction and new shops, national-brand restaurants and grocery stores as anchor tenants that will provide predictable cash flow from rent payments.

That exactly fits the profile of the “Green House Shops” property at Dale Mabry and Hillsborough, Kosoy said, and Walmart now hopes to build a roughly 40,000 square foot Neighborhood Market grocery store, roughly on par in size to the average Publix, and just down the street from a recently closed Sweetbay supermarket.

Typically, Walmart plans for a store of some type about every three miles in a market as dense as the Tampa Bay area. That’s one reason the company plans a much larger Supercenter location a few miles east on Hillsborough Avenue in Seminole Heights, and Walmart hopes to overcome neighborhood group opposition to a new Neighborhood market in Carrollwood.

Most of the property at Dale Mabry and Hillsborough now stands vacant. A TGIFridays location on the corner closed down years ago, though a medical training center still operates on one corner, and an independent sushi restaurant a few doors down continues to attract loyal customers.

The Club Mirage on the property is shut down, but had become such a violent place that police regularly dispatched every available cruiser there for closing time on the weekends. Now the site sits abandoned, with the canvas awning over the entrance ripped and blowing in the breeze.

Walmart normally doesn’t make announcements about new stores until the company is well beyond a signed deal with developers, and in this case company spokespeople said they have no official announcement to make. But Kosoy said he’s in the final stages of a deal with Walmart, and the overall site plan is being designed with Walmart in mind.

Details are still being worked out, and just which buildings on site will come down – or be restructured – haven’t yet been determined.

Here, the rough timeline for a new Neighborhood Market calls for construction to start during next year, and the grocery store would go roughly into a space that once held a CompUSA location. “I would look for significantly more national brand names than nightclubs,” Kosoy said.

rmullins@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7919

Twitter: @DailyDeadline

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