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TAVARES, FL-Ten years in the planning, a former 44-acre citrus grove is scheduled to surface in October 2002 as Triangle MarketPlace, northeast Lake County’s newest neighborhood retail center.

The property is adjacent to the under-construction, $129 million, 325,000-sf, six-story Florida Hospital Waterman tentatively scheduled to open in summer 2003.

Joint developers Watkins Retail Group of Orlando and Peregrine Properties Inc. of San Francisco are betting an estimated 5,000 medical employees and workers at nearby clinics and medical supply companies, along with a growing residential base, will become part of the critical mass needed to support the 44-acre Triangle MarketPlace scheduled to open in October 2002.

“These people have done their home work and are knowledgeable in our area, and that makes me say the project will be successful,” Will Walker, a longtime Lake County and Tallahassee, FL commercial broker tells GlobeSt.com.

But what is beginning to happen among some retailers is a lateral movement. For example, Beall’s Department Stores of Clearwater, FL plans to relocate its successful 30,000-sf operation at nearby Eustis Square shopping center and build a 50,000-sf store at the 22-acre Eustis Village being developed by Watkins Retail Group in one half of Triangle MarketPlace.

That would leave the 100,000-sf Eustis Square, three miles down the road, with only a Publix Supermarket and a Tractor Trailer Co. store as anchors. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pulled out of Eustis Square five years ago and built a 200,000-sf supercenter in neighboring Mount Dora, FL.

Walker, a broker at Bryant Properties Inc. Realtors in Tavares, 35 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando, doesn’t think the lateral movements will hurt the overall retail health of the area.

“The migration continues to come,” Walker tells GlobeSt.com. “And that’s what’s fueling new developments such as this one.”

He feels stronger marketing efforts by shopping center owners and their representatives could also fill up older properties that are losing tenants to newer projects.

“Sometimes the effort isn’t strong enough at the marketing end,” Walker says. “Other times, an owner himself may not be motivated enough to find new tenants quick enough.”

A SunTrust Bank branch is also planned at Eustis Village. Peregrine Properties will develop the other 22 acres of the MarketPlace. A plus for the Watkins-Peregrine project is the city of Eustis’s efforts to build the new Hufstetler Road which improves access to the site at U.S. 441 and David Walker Drive.

Other Watkins Retail Group projects are MetroWest Village, University Palms and Watkins Center, all in Orlando; Paddock Village, Ocala, FL; Ventura Downs, Kissimmee, FL; and Tree Trail Shopping Center, Atlanta.

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