Demolition of University Mall on Fowler Avenue began on Tuesday.
The shopping center has been struggling for years and will undergo redevelopment in hopes of bringing life back to the once-thriving mall.
The mall sits on a parcel that is about 100 acres. The project will cost upward of a billion dollars.
Shoppers say the changes are welcome.
“There was a time where you didn’t have any empties in here and people were still trying to get them to expand or hurry up and try to get someone booted out so they can get in because it was a big crowd here, but now they added a lot of salons in here,” said shopper Latosha Harris.
Demolition will start on the west side of the property, in the area between the former JC Penney and the existing mall.
The plan for this section includes construction of a pedestrian-oriented street that supports new restaurants, new office space and a technology research complex.
There are also plans for a new health and fitness area redevelopment of the back lake and construction of a multi-story residential complex.
Eric Larson with the Tampa Innovation Alliance calls the project the next big thing in the Tampa Bay area.
“You’re going to see job creation. You’re going to see living here. You’re going to see a new restaurants here, so this will be a place in this area to come to,” said Larson.
Store owners are excited to see change.
Enrique Martinez opened Nerd Culture in September.
“At first we thought everybody was gonna get kicked out but actually they embraced us and wanted us to stay,” he said.
Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera has fond memories of University Mall.
“I remember as a kid and a college student coming over to University Mall. I used to come here all the time. I went on a lot of dates out here. A lot of dates that didn’t go very well, but on a lot of dates I remember,” said Viera.
“Developments like this put the city and the county and larger community on further notice of what’s happening in the University and north Tampa area.”
Demolition will take one week.
Plans for the street project, adjacent retail, office and apartment development projects are currently being worked through.
Developers hope to open office spaces between February and April of 2020.