PHOENIX-A $100-million retail mall that won’t be open for another year already has reached half occupancy, a sure signal that the retail market in Phoenix is hotter than ever.

Nine leases have been signed at The Village at Desert Ridge, a 350,000-sf, open-air retail center that’s under construction at the northeast corner of Loop 101 Freeway and Tatum Boulevard. The leases total nearly 130,000 sf, according to CB Richard Ellis, the project’s exclusive listing agent.

Some of the tenants to sign on at The Village at Desert Ridge include: Jillian’s, a Louisville, Ky.-based entertainment company, 63,000 sf; California Pizza Kitchen, 5,000 sf; Mimi’s Café, 6,500 sf; El Paso BBQ, 7,200 sf; Island restaurant; 5,600 sf; Rubio’s Baja Grill, 2,000 sf; Ultimate Electronics, 34,300 sf; and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, 800 sf.

The Village at Desert Ridge falls within Phoenix city limits but is immediately adjacent to the upscale suburb of Scottsdale. The $100-million project, being built by Vestar Development Co., is expected to be completed next summer.

The shopping mall is the centerpiece of the Desert Ridge Marketplace, a 110-acre suburban lifestyle entertainment center that combines specialty retailers with cutting-edge entertainment, theme-style dining and a 20-screen AMC movie theater.

The overall vacancy rate for retail space in metro Phoenix was 4.6% at the start of the third quarter, but in the Scottsdale submarket it was under 3.2%, according to a recent report by CB Richard Ellis. The survey also indicates that more than 4.5 million sf of new space is under construction.

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