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PHILADELPHIA-The pace of retail construction and leasing is picking up in Greater Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs. The diverse activity involves expansion in the region by a mix of national chains and area merchants.

Construction begins on a 40,000-sf shopping center at Street Road and Bustleton Pike in Feasterville. It is a joint venture between Highland Development and Pineville Properties. The center breaks ground fully leased. Among the tenants are Pier 1, Starbucks, Sleepys, T-Mobile, Great Clips, Blockbuster, Electronics Boutique, Letoile Salon and a state liquor store. Conshohocken, PA-based Fameco Real Estate is the exclusive leasing agent. John Kushner, a Fameco senior partner, says his company recently opened an additional office in Princeton, NJ to handle increased market activity.

Fresh Grocer, a locally based chain, opens its fourth area store, a 52,000-sf unit at 5601 Chestnut St. here. It has units in University City, Drexel Hill and Southampton. The construction cost for the new store is $11 million.

Aaron’s, a store that sells furniture, appliances and consumer electronics, inks a lease for 8,000 sf at Cedarbrook Plaza in Cheltenham. Cedarbrook is a 530,000-sf shopping center anchored by Wal-Mart, Pathmark, Toys R Us, and Bally Fitness. Brent Barbehenn of Mt. Laurel, NJ-based Metro Commercial Real Estate is the tenant representative for Aaron’s and represented the retailer in the negotiations.

Meanwhile, Randy Hope of Metro and the exclusive leasing agent for 27,000-sf Yeadon Plaza in Yeadon, represented the owner in negotiating two leases for an aggregate 9,300 sf. The new tenants are A Cut in Four Quarters, which is a barbershop, and Total Beauty Supply, a beauty supplies retailer. A Sal’s Market, which is an IGA grocery store; CVS Pharmacy, and a Family Dollar store anchor the center.

In another transaction, Rob Cooper of Metro, exclusive leasing agent for 113,550-sf Market Square in Philly’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood, negotiates three leases for an aggregate 6,146 sf. The tenants are Quiznos Subs, The UPS Store, and Laundromat. Market Square anchors are Super Fresh, Eckerd Drugs, and Blockbuster. Just two vacancies, totaling 5,240 sf, remain available at the center.

Terms of the various retail leases are undisclosed. The local office of Marcus & Millichap projects that the average retail rental rate this year is about 2% above last year and consistent with last year’s increase of 1.8%. The current average asking rental rate for retail space in this area is $17.70 per sf, according to M&M data.

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