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MURFREESBORO, TN-Cousins Properties Inc. and Charlotte, NC-based Faison Enterprises have acquired 100 acres at the Manson Pike interchange of Interstate` 24 here for the Avenue Murfreesboro. The 805,000-sf retail center will be Atlanta-based Cousins’ eighth and largest center under the Avenue format, which it introduced in 1998.

The 660,000-sf first phase of the center is 57% preleased and expected to open in the third quarter of 2007. It is designed as the centerpiece of a 400-acre master-planned community under development by local landowner C.M. Gatton along the newly opened Medical Center Parkway, which will also contain office space, a hotel, convention center and public spaces.

The JV purchased the land from Gatton. According to published reports, it paid approximately $250,000 an acre, or about $25 million for the parcel. Matt Gove, a Cousins VP, declined to confirm the price. Nor would he disclose the projected cost of the retail center. On condition of anonymity, a source familiar with the development tells GlobeSt.com development of the full retail center is estimated at about $140 million.

Gove says that separately, both Faison and Cousins were in discussions with Gatton about the community’s retail sector before joining forces. Unlike previous Avenue formats, which are lifestyle centers, this one will also contain some power center aspects, Gove says. “We’ve come to realize that a Best Buy shopper can also be a Chico’s buyer,” he explains. “We have experience with power centers as well as lifestyle centers and, in talking with retailers, we know that some customers in both formats are the same. It made sense to add some larger box, power center type components.”

Preleasing bears that out. Committed tenants to date include Best Buy and Dick’s Sporting Goods in addition to Aveda, Carters, Champs Sports, Lane Bryant, Limited Too, Off Broadway, Osh Kosh B’Gosh, Ann Taylor Loft, Barnes & Noble, Belk, Chico’s, Jos. A. Bank, New York & Company, Talbot’s, Ulta, and White House/Black Market. Longhorn Steakhouse and Romano’s Macaroni Grill have also inked leases. <p"The Avenue Murfreesboro should serve as a model for future large-scale Avenues with its wide-ranging merchandising offerings," says Joel Murphy, president of Cousins' retail division, in a statement. The timeline for construction of the second phase has not yet been determined. A call to Mike Cohn, Faison's senior managing director, was not returned by deadline.

Cousins has opened three Avenue centers in the Atlanta area, including Avenue at East Cobb, one in suburban Memphis, one in suburban Los Angeles and one in Melbourne, FL. The first phase of a seventh, the Avenue Webb Gin in Atlanta’s Gwinnett County, is scheduled to open next month. Of the initial seven, only the 587,000-sf Avenue Carriage Crossings in Memphis is a joint venture, in this case with Montgomery, AL-based Jim Wilson & Associates.

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