AUSTIN-After a year of selling and negotiating, Cencor Realty Services has signed Target Corp. to a 20-year ground lease at Capital Plaza, Austin’s oldest shopping center.

Dallas-based Cencor, which owns the shopping center at 5400 Interstate 35, will tear down the existing building that housed a Montgomery Ward store and deliver a pad site to Target, says Scott Freid, partner in charge of the Austin office of Cencor and its affiliate, the brokerage firm the Weitzman Group.

Target plans to start work in late October or early November and open in late summer 2003. The 126,300-sf store will be similar in size to its locations in Round Rock and Lake Hills in the south submarket, Freid tells

Capital Plaza, which opened in November 1960, has 422,008 sf. Tenants include national retailers Conn’s Appliances, Office Max, JoAnn Fabrics, Walgreens, Toys R Us, Fashion Bug and local restaurant, Amaya’s Taco Village. Cencor has owned the center since 1996. Montgomery Ward vacated the building in April 2001 after it declared bankruptcy and went out of business.

Freid said he approached Target about the site a year ago. Target, at first, wasn’t interested. Part of the past year was spent “going through that marketing process and helping them understand the value of the asset,” Freid says.

What sold Target, he says, was the inner city location, which is “next to impossible to find” in Austin. Secondly, Target saw the success of Hancock Center, a shopping center just south on I-35 with Sears and H-E-B. “How well those tenants are doing proves out the quality of the market,” Freid says. A bit further north of Capital Plaza and just off I-35 is Highland Mall, one of Austin’s three regional malls.

Freid says the current tenants will see a substantial increase in traffic when Target opens. “We wanted to find a great anchor that did a lot for the existing businesses as well as was someone we felt was a great operator and a great store,” he says. “We couldn’t be happier with Target.”

Earlier this year, Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse Inc. captured another in-city site when it bought a former printing business and office building at MoPac Boulevard and Steck Avenue. Freid calls that a huge undertaking, but it will “come back to them in spades” when the Lowe’s store opens. “And,” he adds, “we’re hoping it’s the same for Target.

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