PHILADELPHIA-Quartermaster Plaza, a 540,000-sf shopping center on 44 acres in South Philadelphia, breaks ground with lease commitments for more than 75% of its retail space. The construction cost is estimated at $100 million, and the center, one of the largest ever here, is scheduled to open in late 2004 or early 2005.

Brooklyn-based Forest City Ratner Cos. is the lead developer, working on the project in conjunction with locally based Synterra Ltd. and Bryn Mawr, PA-based Moreland Development LLC. Michael Salove Co. Commercial Real Estate, which is based in Bala Cynwyd, PA and has an office here, is the exclusive leasing agent.

Steven Gartner, COO of Michael Salove, tells that a little more than 75% of the retail space is leased. Anchors are Home Depot with 120,000 sf and BJ’s Wholesale Club with 100,000 sf. Other committed tenants are Petsmart, Staples, AJ Wright, Old Country Buffet, Fleet Bank, Walgreen’s, Children’s Place and Wendy’s.

Gartner wouldn’t comment on rental rates except to say they are “competitive.” Area brokers tell the rates are probably in the area of $18 to $22 per sf–estimates that Gartner would not confirm. A 10-year tax abatement on new construction eliminates all but real estate taxes for occupants of the center and will reduce their tax base by about $2 per sf through 2014.

The property is at the now-vacant Army Quartermaster Depot at 2300 Oregon Ave., which dates back to 1918. At one time, more than 10,000 people were employed there in the manufacture of military clothing. The supply center was decommissioned under Congress’s 1995 Base Realignment and Closure legislation.

The Defense Department later demolished the buildings and conveyed the land to the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID). Working with the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. (PIDC), the city council rezoned the parcel for retail. PAID and PIDC created a redevelopment plan and managed the process of selecting a developer.

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