RICHMOND, CA-Essex Property Trust Inc. has purchased 26.5 acres in the Hilltop neighborhood for $10.3 million. The Palo Alto-based REIT says it will immediately begin construction of 504 apartments units.

The first apartments are expected to hit the market in early 2002. The garden-style project is being completed in two phases. The first phase is slated to include 312 one- and two-bedroom units spread over 13 buildings. Units are expected to average 938 sf.

Amenities for the property will include a clubhouse, fitness center, high-speed Internet access, and individual garages. John D. Eudy, executive vice president of development says, “The strong economic growth in the San Francisco Bay Area and local market has led to high occupancy rates and increasing rents. With the construction of this community, Essex will deliver luxury apartment homes at a compelling value to an area experiencing a severe shortage of housing.”

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