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FT. WORTH-The Ft. Worth-based Woodmont Co. is heading west, northwest that is. The firm has closed its first deal, buying a real estate development company and 42,000-sf retail center in Missoula, MT. It’s also the first deal consummated under a restructuring for such tactics that Woodmont’s had in development for nearly two years.

Leading the northwest expansion is David Hutchinson, who is on board as a principal and board member with Woodmont after his firm, Grant Creek Partners, was brought into the fold. The takeover came with the 42,000-sf Grant Greek Town Center, which is in the midst of a 183,230-sf expansion that will bring national retailers to their first Montana locations, Erik Coslik, Woodmont associate, tells GlobeSt.com. In all, it’s a $16-million deal, he says.

Coming in May 2002 will be a 32,000-sf Linens ‘N Things; 30,000-sf Ross Dress for Less; 28,000-sf TJ Maxx; and 10,000-sf Famous Footwear. New space, says Coslik, tallies 119,950 sf, but factoring in four outparcels, only one of which has been developed, takes the bottom line to 183,320 sf. Bernardo Willis Architecture of Spokane designed expansion for Grant Creek Town Center and Quality Construction of Missoula is the general contractor. Hutchinson has set up a Woodmont office on site.

Woodmont acquired the three-year-old center from seller of record, LV Investors Inc., culminating talks that have been under way since October 2000, according to Coslik. Protective Life Insurance Co. of Birmingham, AL provided the financing. At sale time, Grant Creek Town Center was just 72% occupied.

The 16-acre Grant Creek Town Center is located in the one million-sf plus Reserve Street Corridor. Woodmont’s neighbors in the retail corridor are Costco, Target, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Staples and a soon-to-be-constructed Lowe’s.

Though not part of the acquisition, the 140,000-sf Bridges Peak Town Center in Bozeman, MT, another Hutchinson holding, is in line for a 250,000-sf expansion. Woodmont is guiding the effort.

Coslik confides that more buys are in the works. He’s not doing a lot of talking about the negotiations, but did reveal that Woodmont is in talks with three more development companies to do ground up retail projects in Montana. The cities of Bozeman and Kalispell are in the line-up while lips are sealed about the third location.

Coslik says Missoula and Montana as a whole are underserved by national soft goods retailers. He was scouring for sites for Famous Footwear when he stumbled upon Grant Creek Town Center, spinning the site selection process into an acquisition. The deal solidifies changes put into play at Woodmont roughly two years ago to incorporate purchases into asset services. “Grant Creek is the first, but like all firsts, there were some baby steps in between,” says Coslik.

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