WINTER GARDEN, FL-The 1.1-million-sf, $100-million Winter Garden Village at Fowler Groves open-air shopping center won’t be completed until 2007 but developer Sembler Co. of St. Petersburg may have the property almost fully leased before the 175-acre project even opens, retail brokers intimate with the project and the national clients vying for space, tell

Sembler officials confirm they are talking with Lowe’s, Target Inc., Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Stonewood Grill and Tavern, Chili’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, LongHorn Steakhouse, Panela Bread Co., Cracker Barrel, Barnie’s Coffee & Tea Co., Starbucks, Ethan Allen, Pier 1, Linens ‘n Things, GameStop, Chico’s, Ann Taylor Loft, Joseph A. Banks, White House/Black Market, Jared’s Galleria of Jewelry and Kohl’s Corp.

Area brokers involved in a few of the negotiations tell the average asking gross rent range is running from $20 to $30 per sf, plus a percentage of sales.

The Sembler project has drawn controversy from area residents in west Orlando who fear the size of the venture will diminish property values, increase road hazards and generally lessen the quality of life in this once rural pocket of metro Orlando. However, retail consultants who have tracked the west Orlando retail market for the last two decades tell they don’t buy that argument since there is about five million sf of rentable retail space already on the market and operating without serious environmental problems.

Sembler reduced the size of the project from 1.6 million sf when residents brought their concerns to Winter Garden elected officials. The developer also moved the big-box retail section away from the established residential neighborhood, eliminated a planned 21-screen movie theater and realigned Daniels Road.

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