New University Town Center Brings Both Bliss and Chaos to Sarasota County

What was once considered good fashion back in the day, is far from what is considered good fashion today.

Times are changing; clothing styles are developing, and a new luxury mall is opening in Sarasota, Florida.

On October 16th, 2014, University Town Center, will host its grand opening.

Sarasota has only had two local malls, limiting stores available to local residents and forcing them to drive to Brandon Town Center, Tampa International Mall, and sometimes even Mall at Millenia in Orlando Florida to shop for what they truly want.

Now residents can stay local and shop at UTC.

According to the University Town Center website, the new 880,000-square-foot enclosed mall will include over 100 retailers and restaurants, over half of which will be exclusive to the Sarasota- Manatee Market. Nordstrom, Lily Pulitzer, and Lululemon Athletica are just a few of the stores.

Resident and Sarasota native 24 year old Kelsey Hayes, has been awaiting the grand opening of this mall since she was a senior in high school.

“There has been talk about this mall since 2009 and now it’s finally here. I am excited. The Cheesecake Factory is my favorite restaurant and we are in desperate need of a better shopping and attractions in the Sarasota/Manatee area,” says Hayes.

The Cheesecake Factory is one of the restaurants that will soon cater area, along with Konu Grill, Seasons 53, and Sophie’s, Saks Fifth Avenue very own restaurant.

However, not everyone is as excited about UTC opening.

Although the new mall with be economically beneficial to the Sarasota/Manatee area, traffic will be a bear.

Resident Eric Hogan lives in Tuscany Apartment Complex off University Parkway and works at NGC: Coin Certification Company in Lakewood Ranch, 3.5 miles east from the new mall. He has noticed a lot more congestion in the area.

“Currently, the roads don’t seem adequate for the projected traffic. Unless Sarasota County adds an exit ramp to I75 for the mall, I am anticipating an additional 10-15 minutes to my current travel time to work”, states Hogan.

Hayes agrees. She works at Tandem Construction located next to NGC and although she is excited, she too is concerned.

“Traffic has increased dramatically in the last month, due the excitement of the mall and snowbirds. Sarasota County is currently having engineers work thoroughly on the road layout. However, in my opinion, this should have been the first priority – focusing on roadways and proper entrances and exits to the mall so that it would not directly affect people going to and from work. It is a hassle for us,” says Hayes

Unavailable for a quote, State Representative Bill Galvano told ABC 7 last week that two large road plans are underway to alleviate the congestion, one of which is called the diverging diamond.

“It’s very congested, but even worse it’s not safe. And with the diverging diamond, which will be a first, you will have traffic moving freely not having to cross lanes.” says Galvano
Although plans are underway, the roads aren’t built yet and the holiday season is right around the corner.

“I will not be completely able to enjoy this mall for a few months – the area is going to be overpopulated and overwhelming for me. The holidays are coming up and they could not be opening this shopping center up at a busier time for everyone,” says Hayes.

Last Saturday, October 11, was “Macy’s Signature Preview Charity Day” where Macy’s opened its doors to shoppers 5 days prior to the Grand Opening of UTC.

Damaris Rodriguez attended the event in hopes to score an awesome deal. She left disappointed.

“The store itself is beautiful, as for the selection of clothes I wasn’t impressed. Maybe they haven’t received all their merchandise but I will continue to shop at Ellenton Prime Outlets until convinced otherwise.

She also found the traffic to be unbearable.

“Heading east off the I75, I was stuck at the light for 15 minutes. Macy’s was the only store open, Imagine how bad it is going to be when the rest of the mall opens.”

Another concern in Sarasota is that UTC will steal all the business from Downtown Sarasota, just 8.6 miles northeast but President of Main Street Traders and board member of DowntownSarasota alliance Daniel Volz isn’t worried.

“At the end of the day, the mall isn’t replacing the stores we have downtown,” says Volz

“I think it is actually a positive because it will bring people to Sarasota. By the time they come to Sarasota, they are going to want to explore the rest of the area, so it’s going to have a trickle effect. In my opinion, if it brings more people to Sarasota that’s all that matters. Business breeds business.”

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