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HOUSTON-The Morgan Group and Trammell Crow Co. have combined forces to acquire a 24-acre infill property that will be built out as an urban lifestyle center with up to 600 residential units and 400,000 sf of retail space. The estimated $180-million project is expected to deliver in 2008.

The property, which is under contract following a competitive bidding, takes up the corner of Richmond Avenue and Weslayan Street, now home to the Houston Independent School District’s headquarters building and an elementary school. The Morgan Group-TCC JV is backed by a behind-the-scenes institutional investor that’s part of a deal valued at “north of $35 million,” according to Carleton Riser, vice president of development with the locally based Morgan Group. He tells GlobeSt.com that the approximate cost of reconstruction and renovation will be $180 million. Gensler’s Houston office has been named as the project’s master planner and design architect.

Riser says the JV plans to gain access to the site in the summer 2006. “We’ll then begin demolishing existing structures and start construction from the ground up,” he says.

Preliminary preleasing for the commercial component will begin in the fall. “We haven’t officially rolled out the marketing plan,” Riser says. “We need to get along in the design process before we can enter into different discussions with different people in regards to this concept.” He adds the Morgan Group and the Houston team for Dallas-based TCC intend to debut the project at the International Council of Shopping Center’s Southwestern regional meeting in San Antonio.

The retail component calls for a variety of specialty stores, numerous restaurant venues and an upscale health club. “This is a large piece of developable infill property that is unique,” Riser says.

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