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Largo Leader
Improvements planned for Tri-City Plaza
Article published on Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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Photo by JULIANA A. TORRES
Publix is staying open during the future redevelopment of Tri-City Plaza of Largo.
LARGO – The redevelopment of Tri-City Plaza continues, though which stores will remain in the longstanding Largo shopping center is still unknown.

Kimco Realty Corporation has owned the plaza at 5110 E. Bay Drive since January 1993. The real estate company, based in New York, intended to update Tri-City Plaza’s “tired” look for some time, said Paul Puma, president of Kimco’s southern region.

“It is a very important shopping center to us. The plans to redevelop this center have been in the works for years,” Puma said. “We had to wait for all the dominoes to fall into place.”

Demolition of vacant buildings will begin this year, contingent on the company receiving the proper permits, he explained.

“We’re very excited. A lot of the center is going to be torn down,” he said.

The planned redevelopment will essentially shift the locations of the buildings so that they are in line with the existing Publix along the northern side of the property. Currently, the sections of the plaza are cut off from one another; the several parking lots that make up the center don’t connect with each other.

“Today, it’s kind of chopped up and a little difficult for the customers to navigate. And all of that, as part of the redevelopment, will be dramatically changed so that (there’s) easier access, better visibility, easier parking and access from the parking field to the storefronts,” Puma said.

Parking for the entire plaza will be shifted to a common parking area in front of the buildings, to be accessed from both East Bay Drive and U.S. 19. The line of buildings from Fat Cat Tavern to Office Depot at the eastern side of the property will be demolished, in lieu of the new construction along the northern end. Only a 96,000-square-foot building will be rebuilt next to the Chili’s along U.S. 19.

The amount of tenants and store space available in the plaza will remain about the same.

“What we will be tearing down and the square footage we will be replacing it with are approximate,” Puma said.

The AMC movie theater, which closed in January, is not coming back, nor is Kimco rebuilding another movie theater in the plaza.

Kimco does not own the Regions and Wachovia banks at the southern side of the plaza, closest to East Bay Drive. Therefore, those properties are not part of the reconstruction, and along with the Chili’s and Wendy’s, will not change. Kimco does own the Applebee’s restaurant, which will be torn down and reconstructed, according to plans submitted to the city of Largo. The Publix will remain in operation throughout the reconstruction process, but will get a facelift.

“As part to the redevelopment, their store will receive an exterior modification,” Puma said. “I also believe that they are planning on updating the interior of the store.”

Aside from the Publix, Kimco has the four largest retail spaces in the plaza already leased by tenants intending to be in business after redevelopment, but the companies were not ready to announce their intentions.

“We’re not completely through the entire process of obtaining government approvals,” Puma said.

Kimco first submitted their application with the city of Largo Aug. 29, 2013, according to city records.

The work of figuring out the best layout for the plaza and what retail tenants might value the redeveloped space as a future location began about a year ago, Puma said.

“All of that takes months of planning and many conversations with retailers to see who’s interested and who’s not and to understand what our cost will be and what rents we have to get to redo this center,” he explained.

The analysis to determine that the plaza would benefit from the update did not “take very long to recognize,” Puma said.

“Largo’s a very good community,” he said. “We think that the quality of this development is going to be far better than what you see there today. We wouldn’t be doing it if we thought otherwise.”
Article published on Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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