While traffic in and around the new Tampa Premium Outlet mall (2398 Grand Cypress Dr., at the interchange of I-75 and S.R. 56) is bound to get worse as the holiday season approaches, reviews for the first day were mostly positive.
But with one major caveat: So far.
The S.R. 56 and I-75 intersection traffic has taken on almost mythic status among those who find the New Tampa and Wesley Chapel areas to be frustratingly congested. Whether it’s long drive times to work, traffic signals that drivers are convinced aren’t timed properly or long enough and backed-up lines of cars getting on and off the interstate, many can’t imagine the new 441,000-square-foot upscale mall not adding to those problems.
But, Pasco Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Eddie Daniels said that may not be the case. While acknowledging the S.R. 56 and I-75 intersection has yielded its share of complaints in recent months, Daniels says PCSO doesn’t believe the mall will add to the traffic woes, once the opening weeks and holiday season are past.
Most of the build-up on the opening days, said Daniels, was at the I-75 northbound off-ramp to S.R. 56.
Some shoppers feel the trade-off is worth it for the potential of a good bargain and a gorgeous new mall to stroll around.
Thursday’s shoppers appeared more impressed with the layout and design of the sprawling outlet mall and the selection of stores than they were discouraged by the traffic woes.
“It wasn’t as crowded as I thought it would be,’’ said Melissa Blas of Land O’Lakes. “(There was) a little traffic, but not too bad.”
Stephen Yalof, chief executive officer of Simon Premium Outlets, said he was aware of the traffic concerns.
“We pick out our locations based on access, that’s the most important thing,’’ he said, “but the last thing we want to do is frustrate a customer and have them
not want to come back. In addition to great parking (roughly 2,200 spots), there also is public transportation that will be operating from here to Wesley Chapel. So, that’s just (another) way to ease some of the traffic.”
An overflow lot across from the mall and the Walgreens at the S.R.54/56 intersection also were available, with shuttles to transport customers to the mall during the Grand Opening weekend (Oct. 29-Nov. 1). There also is valet parking available in front of the Saks Off 5th anchor store.
Regina Matthews of New Tampa said she had little problem getting into the mall on Thursday, where she was directed by parking attendants who were working hard to get cars swiftly into spots. She did say she wished there were more signs in the area directing people to the mall, however, which she thinks could ease confusion and make the process go more smoothly in the future.
“I think you get a lot of people slowing down to get their directions,’’ she said. “I do think they are going to need additional parking, though.”
It’s too early to declare that longterm, the traffic around S.R. 56 and I-75 will be unaffected by the new outlet mall. Obviously there are some complaints, and some shoppers have claimed bad experiences. But in the early stages of the honeymoon period that accompanies a grand opening, most seem willing to navigate any road turbulence for a new experience.