April 23, 2024
Adapting Anchors

Photo: US Design Lab

Patrons traverse a ropes course at Elev8 Fun at Citrus Park Town Center in Tampa. The fun park replaced a former Sears store.

Economic Backbone: Commercial Real Estate

Adapting Anchors

Laura Lyon | 3/11/2024

Fifteen years ago, Michele “Mik” Oca was living in his native Italy and working in entertainment marketing and design when he got a call from the White House. Incoming President Barack Obama was toying with the idea of replacing the bowling alley at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with a basketball court — and Oca, who’d carved out a niche for himself designing bowling products and alleys, was invited to submit a redesign plan to convince the president to keep the lanes.

The White House didn’t end up using his design, but the experience convinced Oca there might be other design opportunities for him in the United States. In 2015, he relocated his family to the Sunshine State.

In the years since, Oca’s been busy with a range of commercial design programs — everything from renovating a Pin Chaser bowling alley to designing Xtreme Action Park, a Fort Lauderdale entertainment center with more than 200,000 square feet of indoor attractions and event space.

And a few years ago, PrimeTime Amusements, a co-owner of Xtreme Action Park, tapped Oca's US Design Lab to transform a shuttered Sears store at Citrus Park Town Center in northwest Tampa into another indoor amusement venue called Elev8 Fun. “It came to me as this big black box,” Oca says, “Just columns every 25 feet and walls. And I started to lay out the different kinds of attractions.”

Today, the 125,000-sq.-ft. space is a bustling “indoor adventure park” with a mini golf course, racing go-karts, a bowling alley, arcade games and other attractions.

Oca sees the repurposing of anchor stores into entertainment centers as a “win-win” for the amusement facilities and struggling malls.

“The entertainment facility is getting people that already know the shopping mall,” he says. “And the shopping mall is getting new people that probably never (go to malls), just because they want to go to the entertainment facility. And then they walk into the shopping mall just because they want to buy something or spend some extra time.”

Oca anticipates more opportunities ahead as companies reimagine under-utilized commercial spaces, and designing entertainment venues gives him a special sense of satisfaction. “I’m proud to do those kinds of things and have people having fun, especially after COVID.”

Tags: Real Estate, Feature, Economic Backbone: Commercial Real Estate

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