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ORLANDO-The Wilder Cos. of Boston think they have the answer to overbuilt regional malls. They’re betting on open-air neighborhood shopping centers such as the 500,000-sf, $85 million Loop in Methuen, MA and a similar venture proposed for south Orlando.

No ground-breaking date has been set for the project at the hot retail hub embracing the northwest corner of John Young Parkway and Osceola Parkway, a half mile south of the 4,000-acre Hunter’s Creek community.

The project would inflate Central Florida’s retail inventory to over 47 million sf, according to GlobeSt.com research.

Wilder still has to close on the 33-acre tract it is buying from Deerfield Land Corp., a Tupperware Corp. company based in Kissimmee, FL. Wilder partners couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline to learn the estimated development cost of the retail project or the contract price of the land.

But based on information posted on the company’s web site, Wilder and joint venture partner Brickstone Properties of Andover, MA developed the Methuen Loop center at about $170 per sf. Figuring a comparable or higher development cost in Orlando, the new Loop would come in at about $54.4 million.

On the land price, Orange County real estate records show Lowe’s Inc. of Wilkesboro, NC paid Deerfield Land Corp. $7.26 million or $279,231 per acre ($6.41 per sf) for the 26 acres at the southeast corner of the same south Orlando intersection where a 150,000-sf Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse structure is scheduled to open in spring 2003.

A 153,400-sf Osceola Crossings retail venture adjoins the Lowe’s property. East of the Crossings will be a planned 100,000-sf BJs Wholesale Club.

Area land brokers familiar with the Hunter’s Creek submarket tell GlobeSt.com Wilder will probably pay about $300,000 per acre ($6.89 per sf) or an estimated $10 million for the 33 acres. That would place the estimated initial cost for land and building at $64.4 million.

Wilder hasn’t completed its tenant roll but if the project follows the Loop script in Methuen, 27 miles north of Boston, the center would have several anchors such as Gap, Marshalls and Old Navy stores, Borders bookstore and a Loews multiplex theater.

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