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SOFIA, BULGARIA-Developer Tishman International of Los Angeles and Arnstorf, Germany-based builder Linder AG are very busy these days in Bulgaria, which is set to join the European Union in 2007. In addition to Sofia Airport Center, the $76-million mixed-use project GlobeSt.com wrote about in October, the duo is starting a $70-million residential development, negotiating the acquisition of three additional development parcels and forming a new company to manage the completed projects.

The projects are being developed by Tishman Lindner Bulgaria Real Estate, a fund the two incorporated in Austria with other investors. Tishman chief executive Alan Levy tells GlobeSt.com the fund was incorporated there because Austria is already a member of the European Union, which will make for a seamless transition when Bulgaria joins in 2007.

In addition to its big-dollar projects, the fund will close next week a much smaller acquisition. It is buying from Linder a new 37,600-sf building that has been net leased long term to TNT, a third party logistics provider. The acquisition price will be about $1.9 million. The transaction is expected to close before the end of the year.

The build-to-suit is located near Sofia International Airport, which is the fund’s $76-million Sofia Airport Center development. The 1.2-million-sf, 28-acre project will include office, hospitality, logistics and light industrial uses in low- to mid-rise buildings. Development will occur over the next couple of years.

In addition, the JV is developing Residential Park Sofia, which is located near the Lindner-owned Business Park Sofia. The $28-million first phase of 250 apartments with ground floor retail should be completed by the end of 2006. The entire $70-million, 1,100-unit project will be finished in two to three years, says Levy.

Looking ahead, Levy tells GlobeSt.com that the fund is negotiating the acquisition of three additional development parcels, one for another residential project and two for additional commercial development. Finally, to manage the developments, Tishman is planning to incorporate in Bulgaria a new property management company. Levy says negotiations are under way such that the company will have third party work in addition to its management of the funds’ properties.

Tishman International isn’t the lone US company making its mark on Bulgaria. A consortium led by GE Commercial Finance Real Estate recently acquired a 50% stake in an Israeli joint venture developing the Mall of Sofia, a 360,000-sf mixed-use project. The GE consortium includes Golub & Co., GE’s long-time partner in Central Europe.

The project, which is under construction, will include a two-level shopping center, a 12-screen cinema, a supermarket and a five-story office building. Construction on the retail element began in July 2004, with completion scheduled for March 2006. The project is 78% preleased. Completion of the office component is scheduled for May 2006. No preleasing has been announced.

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