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FORT MYERS, FL-Locally based Chico’s inked a contract to acquire 105 vacant acres at Alico Road and Three Oaks Parkway, just off Interstate 75. Plans call for construction of a new corporate headquarters campus for the retail apparel chain where it would consolidate employees from its current 36-acre, 147,000-sf Metro Parkway headquarters campus and a 20,000-sf call center here and also accommodate future growth.

Charles Kleman, COO and CFO, tells GlobeSt.com Chico’s is currently in a 60-day due diligence process prior to closing on the land buy. “We don’t expect any problems and anticipate closing by November,” he says. “We plan to fill all 105 acres over a number of years. The land can accommodate more than one million sf of office space.” Kleman declined to disclose the price tag for the land or the seller prior to closing, but says the seller “owns adjacent land, which he is now going to develop with the advent of a Chico’s headquarters nearby.”

A local-area land broker, on condition of anonymity, tells GlobeSt.com the land probably commanded between $260,000 and $335,000 an acre, “depending on certain unknown variables, such as the land condition and specific zoning.” That would put the total price at between $27.3 million and $35.2 million. “It’s a terrific spot for them,” he adds.

In preparation for obtaining Certified Target Industry Tax Refunds as an incentive to keep Chico’s here, Regina Smith, executive director of the Lee County Economic Development Office, estimated the economic impact of Chico’s relocation at $70 million, which, she tells GlobeSt.com, was “based on the company’s current and projected employment and the cost of land, construction and equipment. This was done prior to identity of the proposed land site and did not include specific building parameters.”

The incentive package totals almost $2 million in tax relief over four years, Smith says, split 20/80 between the county and the state, respectively. The county’s share is $398,000. The full amount represents a refund on taxes anticipated from Chico’s during that timeframe. The retailer expects to create an additional 398 jobs here over four years.

Kleman says Atlanta, where Chico’s has a distribution center, was seen as a potential alternative headquarters location. “The accelerated growth of our business over the past several years has caused us to exceed the capacity of our existing facilities,” says Scott A. Edmonds, Chico’s president and CEO, in a statement. “After evaluating a number of locations within Lee County, we are hopeful that this site will enable us to develop a world class headquarters that will meet our current needs as well as accommodate our long-term growth plans.”

Chico’s currently operates 698 stores under the Chico’s, White House/Black Market and Soma names in 47 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Its 2004 sales exceeded $1 billion.

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