ATLANTA-Expanding rapidly in Georgia since acquiring locally based IRT Property Co. in October 2002 in a $730 million stock and debt transaction, Equity One Inc. of Miami plans to break ground by the summer on a 13.5-acre, 90,000-sf shopping center in Henry County, about 12 miles southeast of Downtown.

Equity One chairman and CEO Chaim Katzman says the REIT has signed a long-term lease with Lakeland, FL-based Publix Super Markets Inc. for a 44,840-sf store to be built in the 650-acre Westridge master-planned community on GA 20, west of McDonough. The Publix lease is the 42nd leasing contract in Equity One’s portfolio.

The REIT is negotiating with other tenants to fill the center. The first 70,000-sf phase of the center is tentatively scheduled for completion in early 2005.

Equity One is scouting Georgia and the Southeast for revenue-generating neighborhood shopping centers, company chairman and CEO Chaim Katzman said after acquiring the 95,597-sf Butler Creek center in July in Acworth, GA. Equity paid a premium $12.1 million, or about $126.57 per sf, for the 13-year-old Butler Creek, as previously reported.

Katzman said at the time he looks for an investment property that already has a dominant grocer and a complementary mix of local tenants that provide a range of daily goods and necessities.

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