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ATLANTA-The nation’s pioneer themed shopping center developer Rouse Co. of Columbia, MD may be finding a change in shoppers’ habits, as they see major retailers shy away from entering new mall development deals.

That’s the conclusion some elected officials in suburban Forsyth County are drawing after the Maryland developer advised them this week the debut of the planned 1.4 million-sf, estimated $200 million Forsyth Commons may be delayed beyond the scheduled 2006 opening date.

Dallas-based Neiman Marcus is the only anchor Rouse has signed for the planned high-end retail venture along GA 400, between McFarland and Union Hill Roads. In a prepared statement, Forsyth County officials say Rouse plans to submit a revised development plan, showing a smaller-sized version of the project.

The original plan envisioned 100,000 sf of office and 375 residential units to complement the retail component in the first phase. Additional retail, office and a 500-room hotel were on the drawing boards for the second phase of the project.

Forsyth County approved the developer’s original plan in 2002. At that time, Michigan-based Taubman Cos. decided to shelve its plans for a similar high-end retail project, further south along GA 400.

If built, Forsyth Commons would compete with General Growth Co.’s North Point Mall in Alpharetta, GA, 30 miles north of Downtown Atlanta; and the North Georgia Premium Outlets in Dawsonville, GA.

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