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CHANDLER, AZ-Opus West Corp. is planning an early 2007 groundbreaking on a 200,000-sf development as part of its stepped-up retail focus. The estimated $18-million, as-yet unnamed project tentatively is ticketed to deliver in spring 2008.

“My main goal here is to establish and maintain a consistent retail presence in the region,” Craig Esslinger, Opus’ new senior director of retail development, tells GlobeSt.com. The veteran of the metro’s retail ranks will over see projects in Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Opus West’s home state.

Phoenix-based Opus bought the 17.5-acre Chandler site in January for $6.7 million. It’s just one of several retail projects that Esslinger has on his desk. The former Vestar Development Co. executive also is leading the charge for a trio of large projects in three other states, but he says it’s too early to discuss specifics.

One of Esslinger’s more formidable projects in the area was Vestar’s 1.2-million-sf Desert Ridge Marketplace. “Real estate development intrigued me,” he says. “It’s rewarding when you can see a tangible result of your labors. These days, when I walk up to Desert Ridge, I feel great.”

A graduate of the US Air Force Academy and member of the US Marine Corps as a captain with Operation Desert Storm, Esslinger says he’s using the discipline and hard-work ethic obtained through his military training in his profession. “I’m working to locate the opportunities, get them entitled, get them designed, built and leased, and hopefully sold,” he says.

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