The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, Fla., will be anchored by Dillard's, Macy's and Saks. Taubman

Later this year in Sarasota, Fla., Taubman Centers Inc. will do something that is rarely seen these days in the retail world: open a new regional mall.

In October, Taubman is scheduled to open the Mall at University Town Center, a 900,000-square foot complex anchored by a Dillard's, a Macy's and a Saks Fifth Avenue. The mall cost Taubman and its partner $315 million to build.

That was a common event from the 1980s through the early 2000s when mall construction boomed. But new mall development has slowed to a trickle in recent years, falling from more than 25 million square feet of gross leasable space added in 2001 to less than four million each year starting in 2010, according to Green Street Advisors. Only eight new malls have been built in the U.S. since 2008, Green Street says.

Taubman, a real-estate investment trust based in Michigan, has been an exception to the rule. The company currently has three domestic projects under way in Sarasota, Hawaii and Puerto Rico—with a combined cost of $905 million to the company—as well as two malls planned for China and one for South Korea, with a combined cost of $560 million.

Taubman is building because it believes its projects are located in markets that are underserved by retail, and because of the mall owner's track record of attracting high-quality tenants. Sarasota, for example, will "fill the void between Tampa and Naples" for upscale, destination retail, the company said. The mall's retail space was 90% committed months before the opening, Taubman said.

Taubman Centers has been raising capital to develop by selling less-productive assets. Last month, for example, the company, which has a market value of just under $5 billion, struck a deal to sell seven malls to investment firm Starwood Capital Group for $1.4 billion.

The malls, located in Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and Michigan, produced lower sales levels than the rest of the company's 17 other U.S. malls, Taubman said. In 2013, the company reported average sales per square foot of $721 across its entire portfolio. In the wake of the Starwood deal, sales in Taubman's portfolio increased by more than $100 per square foot, the company said.

"This transaction was really a pretty bold strategic choice for us to slim down the portfolio so we could achieve faster growth," said Simon J. Leopold, Taubman's treasurer and senior vice president for capital markets. "This decision was made for a variety of reasons, but the biggest was that we'll be able to have our development pipeline be more robust."

Mr. Leopold said the company typically doesn't issue equity to pay for development, but instead uses cash on hand, construction loans and the proceeds from refinancing other properties to pay for the construction of new malls.

Over the past few years, several of Taubman's competitors, including General Growth Properties Inc. and Simon Properties Group Inc., have been selling less-productive malls or spinning them off into new companies.

But Taubman has been doing more development. "They're really the only one building malls from the ground-up in the U.S. right now," said Daniel Busch, an analyst with Green Street.

Taubman says it is expecting a yield of between 7% and 9% from its new developments. The company says that investors buying top-quality malls these days typically get yields in the 4% to 4.5% range.

"Getting rid of your lower-tier malls makes it easier for your leasing team to fill the top-tier malls, because they don't have to worry about compensating tenants for taking space in lower-quality locations," said Alexander Goldfarb, a REIT analyst with Sandler O'Neill + Partners.

But Mr. Goldfarb, in a note to investors about the Starwood transaction, suggested that Taubman may have gotten the raw end of the deal. According to Sandler O'Neill's analysis, the $1.4 billion price for the seven malls represented just 8% more than the undepreciated book value of the malls, which were all built by Taubman over the past decade.

"They sold these malls for less than 10% more than it cost to build them. It should be at least 50% more if not double," Mr. Goldfarb said. "We're positive on the transaction, but it also highlights that development doesn't always necessarily create a lot of value. It highlights that development is a risky proposition."

Write to Robbie Whelan at