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ROUND ROCK, TX-Simon Property Group Inc. plans a 750,000-sf outdoor regional mall with office and residential components on the northern edge of Round Rock, extending the Austin area’s increasingly dense Interstate 35 retail corridor.

Simon, based in Indianapolis, says the mall will follow an open-air, main street concept similar to its Bowie Town Center in Prince George’s County, MD. Plans call for two or three department stores, smaller retailers, restaurants and entertainment venues. The company said it expects to announce department store tenants in the near future.

Besides the 750,000 sf of retail, the phased project would have 50,000 sf to 100,000 sf of office space, a hotel and 250 residential units. Tom Schneider, senior vice president of development at Simon, says the first phase of the project should be ready by 2005.

The property is just west of Teravista, a recently opened 1,435-acre, master-planned residential community developed by San Diego-based Newland Communities. At build out, it will have 3,245 single-family homes and 750 multifamily units. A golf course has already opened.

Newland Communities, has agreed to sell 133 acres along I-35, just north of Chandler Road, to Simon. The property is just north of a parcel owned by Scott & White, a Temple, TX-based health-care provider. Both tracts are undeveloped.

The I-35-Chandler Road intersection seems to be an appropriate location for the project, says Charles Heimsath of Capitol Market Research in Austin. While the north end of Round Rock may be a bit “green” in retail development, there’s a significant amount of residential development planned for Chandler Road east of I-35, he says. And plans call for Chandler Road to be extended to Texas 130 to the east, making Chandler more of an arterial road. “And,” Heimsath says, “it’s all about traffic.”

Currently, the retail market is the region’s healthiest commercial real estate sector. The occupancy level inched up to 94.8% in the first half of the year from 94.5% in December, according to Heimsath’s firm. The average rental rate slipped to $15.96 per sf, down 0.25% from December. The rate does not reflect better space in newer shopping centers because the available vacant space is generally in older, unanchored centers in less accessible locations.

Round Rock officials welcomed the development with enthusiasm. It fits the large retail development that has been part of the city’s master plan, according to Mayor Nyle Maxwell. He said the project would create more than 2,000 jobs.

For Simon, the project extends its reach into the Austin area. It’s other shopping developments include Barton Creek Square Mall, Lakeline Mall, Highland Mall and the Arboretum. The company also is interested in developing shopping projects in Georgetown, north of Round Rock, and Buda, south of Austin.

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