Hyde Park Village has a new owner.
Boston-based WS Development has bought a controlling stake in the open-air shopping village, and executives with the company say they plan to invest and breathe new life into the property.
Rather than try to re-create a traditional mall in the village space, the new owners are taking a different route, and they plan to sit down and meet with neighbors around the area, and craft a plan to dramatically renovate the site and recruit in a slew of new independent shops and neighborhood restaurants.
“We saw this property as so special and unique that it would be difficult to replicate anywhere else,” said Louis C. Masiello, vice president of development for WS Development. “The opportunity to further distinguish in the mind of this shopper about how special this is was a very appealing idea for us.”
This won’t be a property filled with generic brands that could be found all over town, Masiello said. Rather, there are stores and restaurants all over the country that have an independent or quirky philosophy that have been looking for somewhere in Tampa to land, but haven’t found the right place.
Rather than simply upgrade the “paint and plants” of the neighborhood, Masiello said the company is willing to invest heavily to improve the site overall — from sidewalks and landscaping to utilities, the parking decks and infrastructure of the place.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Masiello said his company is fully buying out the current pair of owners: Vornado Realty Trust and Madison Marquette, which has been managing the property.
The project represents a new entrance into Florida by WS Development, which is one of the largest mall operators in the United States that focuses almost exclusively on the Northeast.
Many in the local development market have long hoped the Village would prosper, and hoped a new ownership structure could mean reinvestment in the complex for needed things like maintenance and incentives to lure in new shops and restaurants. The mall’s location smack in the middle of one of Tampa’s wealthiest neighborhoods only added to the anticipation that the Village could turn into something more.
Monday’s deal shifts an ownership structure that many local real estate experts have said hindered the hopes of the Village. Rather than just one owner, the Village was owned by two companies: The investment firm of Vornado Realty Trust and the mall management and development company Madison Marquette. Madison presently handles management and leasing of the site.
The two parties have put the property on the market before, including in 2008, and again this summer. Such deals sometimes are done merely to measure outside investor demand so that one current partner in a property can buy out the other at market rates.
Rumors of a deal have circulated for several years as Vornado shifted focus away from retail and more to its core business of acquiring and managing office space. As of Monday, Vornado removed Hyde Park Village from its listing of properties under management.
Boston-based WS Retail is new to Tampa, but is a long-established and expansive real estate company that manages more than 85 properties, totaling more than 20 million square feet of existing space and four million under development, making them one of the largest operators in the country. Almost all those properties are in the Northeast: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Hyde Park could do with a renovation.
Parts of the complex along South Dakota Avenue date back to 1924, but the most significant renovation and expansion came in 1985 when developers built an open-air shopping village that eventually grew to seven city blocks with 262,000 square feet of internal space and just over 1,000 parking spaces in two different decks. Tenants that normally opened in enclosed malls flocked to the village, including Brooks Brothers, Talbots, Tommy Bahama, Williams-Sonoma and Ann Taylor.
But over the years, the mall struggled as rival malls like Westshore Plaza grew, and International Plaza opened in 2001, not to mention newer open-air malls like the Shops at Wiregrass further out in Pasco County.
At one point during the past real estate boom, mall owners planned a multi-story condo tower on a wedge along Snow Avenue. At the time, stores like Pottery Barn were generating more than $750,000 per month in sales, according to real estate brochures for the site.
Then the downturn and other factors help doom the condo project, and several long-term tenants moved out, including Source for the Home, Ann Taylor, Talbots and Restaurant BT. That’s left the village to endure fits and starts with tenants turning over.
Where Restaurant BT moved out, the Sophie’s French Bakery & Café briefly opened, then closed, and was just replaced by the French restaurant Piquant. Where the Bang & Olufson audio/video store moved out, the Lululemon Athletica yoga gear store moved in. The Williams-Sonoma company (which also owns Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids) closed a Williams-Sonoma location and is presently renovated the space into a West Elm high end home goods and accessories..
Where the original movie theater closed down, the more upscale Cobb CineBistro theater opened up, and has become an especially popular spot for people who want to watch movies with dinner and a glass of wine, while the new Irish31 bar is often packed on weekends.
An entire block of shops along the north side of Snow Avenue are presently empty – an after effect of the mall’s plans to take down the structure for a housing tower.
Meanwhile, the neighborhood generally supports the shopping village, and the new monthly farmer’s market event has grown to the point that mall operators close off Snow Avenue and South Dakota Avenue, and hundreds of people visit – even on scorching summer afternoons.
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