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EL CENTRO, CA-San Diego-based developer Touchstone Communities has purchased 21 acres in this Imperial Valley community, with plans to build a 255-unit luxury apartment development valued at approximately $34 million. The land is located adjacent to the newly built Imperial Valley Mall and was purchased from CBL & Associates Properties and the MG Herring Group.

“The Imperial Valley is a booming area,” Kerry Garza, president of Touchstone Communities, tells GlobeSt.com. “All the developers are going there. It is ideal for rental properties.”

Construction is scheduled to begin later this year on the apartment project, which will be named Almeria and will be located east of Imperial Valley Mall, with a pedestrian crosswalk connecting the two structures. The two-story complex will consist of one-, two- and three-bedroom floor plans. Amenities for the development include event facilities, an exercise room, a technology center, a swimming pool and tennis courts. Completion is estimated for mid 2007.

Touchstone’s Almeria project will complement the shopping center and “will allow residents to live, work, and play within their own neighborhood,” says Stephen Lebovitz, president of CBL & Associates Properties Inc.

Lebovitz’s comment sounds a theme that is repeated often in Southern California these days as developers strive to cluster homes, businesses and retail centers close to each other. Touchstone chose the land for its location and proximity to Imperial Valley Mall. The company is currently developing a single-family housing development in Brawley, approximately 10 miles from El Centro. The development, Carissa Ranch, will have 59 residential homes when finished.

The 750,000 sf-Imperial Valley Mall opened on March 9 and is anchored by four department stores: J.C. Penney, Sears, Dillard’s and Robinsons-May. Other tenants include national and regional retailers as well as a 14-screen movie theater.

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