By Brian Bokor

In this year of unprecedented setbacks, many new restaurants, stores and entertainment options opened throughout Southeastern Hillsborough County, along with many others approved or currently under construction.

We would like to highlight some of the most discussed developments in this year-end review. Sincere apologies given to any new business that opened in 2020 that were not mentioned in this article, as I am sure there were many that we unintentionally missed.

In the Greater Brandon area, much of the new activity centered around Falkenburg Rd. with the opening of the 6,000 sq. ft. Cigars International, featuring over 1,300 cigar brands along with a full-service bar and spacious outdoor patio; Texas Roadhouse and soon Bubba’s 33 at the Causeway Blvd. intersection; and the relocation of Bootleggers Brewing Co. Mahana Fresh opened in Regency Square, Bravo Supermarket on Providence Rd. as well as Brandon Burgers, Panda Express, Bolay and The Dog Patch pet daycare along S.R. 60.

Projects approved or under construction include Sprouts in Lake Brandon Village and a RaceTrac gas station at the Kings Ave. and Lumsden Rd. intersection.

Coca-Cola Florida has been confirmed to be following through with plans to develop the 158-acre parcel at the U.S. 301 and Lee Roy Selmon Expressway intersection by adding 1.3 million sq. ft. of development to house its new operations facility, which will include a warehouse, distribution and packaging facility along with office headquarters, retail shops and possibly a hotel.

At Lithia Pinecrest Rd., the Bell Shoals Executive Plaza continues to grow and will be adding additional office space throughout 2021.

The list of dining and shopping openings in 2020 on Bloomingdale Ave. alone was staggering with the Bin + Board in Kings Row and Datz in Winthrop sharing top bill, followed closely by Donovan’s Meatery, Brandon Burgers, Maple Street Biscuit Company, Katana Japanese Express, Gasparilla Pizzeria & Growlers and Heights Meat Market.

On top if this, Bloomingdale Square went through a major overhaul in 2020 by adding the new Publix, Home Centric, Chicken Salad Chick, Jersey Mike’s, First Watch, Beef O’Brady’s, GNC and Flip Flop Shops with LA Fitness and The UPS Store coming after the new year.

Additionally, Heroes Paradise opened just north of Bloomingdale Square on Knowles Rd., offering families a variety of indoor and outdoor events and games, including laser and archery tag, rock wall climbing, RC (remote control) tracks and much more.

In the Gibsonton/Riverview area near the Alafia River, the Tiki Docks Bar & Grill opening topped the long list of new restaurants and stores in this area, including Eggs Up Grill, Bubbakoo’s, Wendy’s, Waffle House, Arby’s, Cali Cafe and Pink Door Bakery.

The Cracker Barrel and soon McAlister’s Deli at Gibsonton and the I-75 interchange also ended high on the list, with an honorable mention given to Culver’s on Boyette Rd., Fields and Table on Balm Riverview Rd., ALDI at the U.S. 301/Balm Riverview Rd. intersection and Alafia Brewing Company on U.S. 41, which are all in various stages of construction.

Planning continues on the new 25-acre Riverview Regional Park that will be located on Riverview Dr. and the Alafia River between U.S. 301 and I-75 with the new Riverview Library just about ready to open its doors on Balm Riverview Rd. The Riverview Marina has cleared land and finalized plans for its dry dock facilities along with a private restaurant on the premises. All indications point to AdventHealth breaking ground sometime next year on the 23-acre hospital set to be built on U.S. 301, just north of Boyette Rd.

Further south in the Big Bend Rd. area of Riverview, aside from the much-needed Big Bend Rd./I-75 intersection makeover, the long-anticipated Chick-fil-A took the top spot along with Mandela’s Italian Kitchen and Cold Stone Creamery in the Summerfield area.

Additionally, both ALDI and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop opened on Big Bend Rd. with the proposed 500,000 sq. ft. Home Depot Distribution Facility near U.S. 41 still in the formative stages.

Wrapping things up, in Apollo Beach, the Waterset area’s new Starbucks, approved for months yet still not having broken ground, garnered the most attention with a recently announced ABC store and CubeSmart Storage being added to the same plaza, west of U.S. 41.

The Belmont area, which will be accessible from Apollo Beach via the new I-75 flyover, is also seeing its share of development with the new Publix and proposed 7-Eleven, Rita’s Italian Ice, Great Clips, Nail Dior Lounge, Domino’s and, as of the last update, Cajun Crab House all being added at the U.S. 301 and Paseo Al Mar Blvd. intersection.