Sarasota firm tapped to help fill Westfield Siesta Key mall

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The move is intended to bring in new retail and other concepts.

A local real estate firm has been tapped to help Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield breathe new life into Westfield Siesta Key mall.

Sarasota’s Ian Black Real Estate announced Tuesday that it will partner with the leasing team for the former Southgate mall at U.S. 41 and Siesta Drive to help bring in new retail and other concepts.

Steve Horn, partner at Ian Black Real Estate, said that the idea is to help the mall evolve into a shopping center that makes sense for the 21st century — that is, a mixed-use center where shopping isn’t the only draw. Westfield, Horn said, has a track record of operating traditional malls, like the Westfield Brandon mall in Hillsborough County.

“I can’t pinpoint exactly where the mall is going to go. I just know that nobody in market, locally and regionally, has looked at Southgate as an opportunity for them. And so, we are just open to listening,” Horn said. “We could talk to arts organizations, entertainment, more food and beverage, just anything and everything — we are open to it. We have this unbelievable space. What that means long term, I don’t know, but I think its going to be fun getting there and figuring it out.”

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s portion of the mall is 400,000 square feet, Horn said. The mall has struggled over the years because of the rise of e-commerce, changes in consumer behavior and the arrival of the Mall at University Town Center at Interstate 75 and University Parkway. Dillard’s and Saks Fifth Avenue left Westfield Siesta Key in 2014 to join the Mall at University Town Center.

Since then, several tenants inside the mall have left, including BareMinerals, Pottery Barn, White House Black Market, Williams-Sonoma, Coach, Alicia’s Dream and The Walking Company. In 2017, four new restaurants joined the mall, but two of those four have since closed.

Despite its struggles, Westfield Siesta Key does have some bright spots, Horn said. High-end movie theater Cobb CineBistro opened in 2016, and a year later, Lucky’s Market and LA Fitness opened in parts of the former Dillard’s parcel owned by Benderson Development Co. of Manatee County. Horn said restaurants Connors Steak and Seafood and Bravo Coastal Bar & Kitchen are also doing well. Macy’s has also committed to staying long-term, he said, and L’Core Spa joined the mall’s lineup last summer.

No matter what, Horn said, it’s inarguable that the mall is in a prime location. It’s three miles from downtown and seven miles from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. According to a press release from Ian Black Real Estate, 73% of area households have an annual income at or above $150,000, and 4.5 million tourists visit Siesta Key each year.

Matthew Magassy, senior leasing manager for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, said in a statement that the mall’s owner brought in Ian Black because of the firm’s local knowledge.

“They’re first-in-class in the local market and will help us make an impact here. Our team will continue to leverage our national relationships, and Ian Black Real Estate will bring in the local knowledge to help us diversify our merchandising mix,” Magassy said.

Partner and founder Ian Black, sales associate Melissa Harris and Horn will make up the real estate firm’s team on the Westfield Siesta Key assignment.

Barry Seidel, president of American Property Group of Sarasota Inc., said that while he wishes Ian Black Real Estate luck, giving the mall new life will be an incredibly difficult job.

“When (all of those stores) left, it’s basically become a place where people go to walk in the morning with air conditioning. It will be very hard to get that jump-started, especially for the rents I’m assuming they’d try to get,” Seidel said.

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