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Developers present Seminole Mall vision
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An artist’s rendering of what the new Seminole City Center might look like. Plans call for taking down the existing Seminole Mall to make way for a new modern design that includes a movie theater, restaurants, retail stores and a bank.
SEMINOLE – For nearly two years, city officials, business owners and residents have wondered what Seminole Mall’s new owners had in store for the former retail hub.

Even before the new owners, North American Development Group, came on board, for years the future of the declining mall, located at the high-traffic intersection of 113th Street and Park Boulevard, has been a giant question mark for the city.

NADG, which bought the blighted mall at the end of 2012, and Tampa-based Primerica Group One/Primerica Development, which NADG teamed up with for maintenance, management and redevelopment of the site, finally shared their vision for the property at the July 22 City Council meeting. They plan to transform the rundown retail location into Seminole City Center, a shopping, entertainment and dining destination for the region.

And the best way to ensure the successful completion of this major redevelopment project is through a public-private partnership, said Richard Trzcinski, Primerica’s president. He assured the council that he wouldn’t put city or county residents at risk with the deal. No money would be required from Seminole up front, but would instead come later in the form of tax rebates, he said.

The project would also require cooperation from the county, he added. Other funding possibilities include Penny for Pinellas money, community grants, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority participation, utility taxes and franchise fees.

Trzcinski nodded to past Primerica projects that utilized similar successful partnerships – The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, The Estuary in Brandon and The Village at Gulfstream in Hollandale Beach.

“We’ve seen the way public-private partnership works to make things happen,” he said. “I think we absolutely need to proceed together.”

“Seminole Mall is an unusual redevelopment project because it’s a focal point of the city and its residents,” said Dale Johnson, Primerica’s director of development and construction. “This is your downtown.”

Residents can expect a drastic change, she said. Enclosed malls like Seminole Mall are “dinosaurs in the market.”

She ticked down a list of issues with the mall in its current state, including lack of tenancy and obsolete buildings.

“It just cries to be redone,” she said.

As retail changes, so do the needs of Seminole shoppers, Trzcinski said.

With growing reliance on the Internet, “soft goods can easily be gotten and brought to your door,” he said. “We have to create something that’s a destination where people want to travel to,” whether it’s from the beaches, Tampa or beyond. “We have to create a sense of space that is exciting.”

The plan for Seminole City Center calls for razing the indoor mall and replacing it with a modern design that includes a 12-screen movie theater, restaurants, retail stores and a bank. No specific tenants have been named, though two of the remaining tenants, Bealls and Stein Mart, have expressed an interest in being part of the redeveloped shopping center, Trzcinski said.

The redevelopment is projected to significantly increase real property taxes and sales taxes over the current site, Trzcinski. An increase of $32.35 million in taxable real property value is expected with an additional $586,324 in tax revenue.

The project will also create 725 permanent jobs, in addition to 244 indirect jobs and 629 temporary jobs during construction.

“This is big stuff,” Trzcinski said. “It’s very, very exciting to me.”

City Manager Frank Edmunds said the council would need to discuss the possibility of entering into a development agreement with NADG and Primerica at a workshop in the near future and then bring the final proposal to a future council meeting for public comment. The city has entered into similar agreements with developers before, he said, but Seminole City Center would be of a much larger scale and have a greater impact on the city.

“[Seminole Mall] is the epicenter of our city,” said Mayor Leslie Waters, “and probably the only question that we get when we’re out in the city.”

Councilor Chris Burke said he’d refrain from commenting on the project until he learned more about what is expected financially from the city.

"Before I trade the cow for the beans, I want to know how much the beans cost,” he said.

Councilor John Counts, however, enthusiastically supported the project, though he said he doesn’t see it becoming a “final destination spot” for the region. Still, he expects it to have a large draw in the greater Seminole area.

“It’s a phenomenal proposal and I support it 100 percent,” he said.

Seminole Mall first opened in 1965, initially anchored by Publix, which later moved across the street. None of the original tenants are left, Johnson said.

The mall saw its heyday in the 1980s, though the property’s assessed value fluctuated over the years, she said. The property’s value saw its peak in 2008, at the height of the real estate boom. It’s now at its all-time low, worth around $16 million, she said.

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