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MORRISVILLE-Just a few years ago, Morrisville was not considered a shopping destination. It was just a place that Triangle residents drove through on their way to work in Research Triangle Park.

Now, however, about a half dozen small to midsize retail projects are being developed in the area, joining a larger one that opened last year. That project, Park Place, a 134,000-sf shopping center, was opened by Cary, NC-based Konover Property Trust, to serve Morrisville, Cary and other nearby towns.

Among other retail projects being developed are the 155,000-sf Village Market Place and Davis Commons, a 250,000-sf center that could be looking to lure big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart. Other small centers are being planned as part of mixed-use developments near NC 54.

Park Place was a joint venture with ARC Development. “It was one of the first developments in the Morrisville area,” Liz Dion, director of corporate marketing with Konover, tells GlobeSt.com. “We are leased up except for two contiguous spaces of 1,000 sf each that are being held for a restaurant.” Dion says Park Place has about 17 tenants.

Developer Dan Dzamba is completing construction on Morrisville Square, a 25,000-sf shopping center near the Town Hall. Raleigh-based Rosamund Property is handling the leasing arrangements and has already signed up tenants for almost half the project.

Jerry Friedman, a broker with Rosamund, tells GlobeSt.com Morrisville Square will eventually have an office building or two and a day school.

“In the retail component, we are leasing end units at $17.50 per sf, with in-line space going for $16.50 per sf,” Friedman says. A Mexican-themed restaurant, which has taken 3,000 sf, and a bakery are currently building out their space.

Friedman says Morrisville profited from nearby Cary’s decision to slow down fast-track development around 1997. Cary decided it was growing too fast, causing sewer and water shortages. The town restricted development by slowing down site plan approvals.

“When that happened, developers had to look elsewhere,” Friedman says. “The elsewhere, which was Morrisville, was pretty close by. And to the east of Morrisville is the airport. Morrisville had already begun to build a business base in the vicinity of the airport in terms of office parks and laboratory centers and some light industrial areas.”

It’s quite a change for a town that had only 1,200 residents in 1990. The town estimates the population could climb to about 13,000 if all of the residential plans submitted recently are completed.

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