With the last environmental hurdle removed, it’s full-speed ahead for a proposed outlet mall on State Road 56 and Interstate 75.
Simon Property Group and landowner Richard E. Jacobs Group have finalized a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that had left in limbo their plans to build Tampa Premium Outlets on the Cypress Creek Town Center site for nearly two years, said Carol Clarke, the assistant planning and development administrator for Pasco County.
That means an outlet mall could be up and running on what is now acres of vacant land in the heart of commercial growth in Wesley Chapel by the end of 2014.
“We are very excited to be moving forward on this project, and are commencing meetings with the county to determine approvals and a schedule,” said Danielle DeVita, senior vice president for development and acquisitions at Simon, in a statement.
The opening, if it stays on schedule, would come seven years after the Jacobs Group received county approval for the Cypress Creek Town Center, located just north of the Hillsborough County line.
Coleen Conklin, senior vice president of marketing for Premium Outlets and Simon, was not able to comment on the report ahead of publication.
If plans hold up, this would put the outlet mall portion of the site well ahead of its extended construction deadline of 2021 on the 510-acre site. The original plans were to build a 1.2 million-square-foot mall along with 600,000 square feet of retail space and 120,000 square feet for offices by 2011. Expanded plans included 350 hotel rooms, 230 apartments, and a 2,582-seat movie theater.
That extension, granted in 2009, was the result of legal issues, problems with environmental permitting, and the economic recession.
Yet, neither Simon nor Jacobs Group gave up, continuing work on the center they hoped would complement nearby projects like The Grove and The Shops at Wiregrass.
In May 2012, Simon said it had signed an agreement with Saks Fifth Avenue to open an Off Fifth-style store in its outlet mall. It’s a retailer that is common in many of Simon’s projects worldwide.
At the time, Simon expected the Saks Fifth Avenue store to open by 2014, but its permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as well as a court battle with an environmental group had yet to be resolved.
A court rejected the Sierra Club’s claims in 2011 that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers improperly examined the project’s impacts to wetlands and waterways. However, it did move forward with concerns on how the project would impact the eastern indigo snake, a threatened species that moved across the land.
Kenneth Dodd, a herpetologist for the Office of Endangered Species, called the site an important “wildlife corridor,” and that having its habitat “fragmented” could cause more of the snakes to die on area roads.
Now it’s just up to Pasco County officials to approve final site plans, and sign the permits necessary to get construction going.
Pasco County’s Clarke said her staff met with Simon Oct. 29, and “will be working with them to develop a coordinated schedule and get this project going.”
Simon, headquartered in Indianapolis, owns or has an ownership interest stake in more than 325 retail properties in North America and Asia, comprising of 242 million square feet. In the past quarter alone, Simon has opened three new outlet malls in Toronto, St. Louis and Korea. It also began construction on four more in Charlotte, N.C.; Eagen, Minn.; Mirabel, Quebec; and Vancouver, B.C., according to the company’s corporate filings.
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