LOS ANGELES-Tesco, one of the world’s largest grocery chains, has taken steps for a push into California with the signing of a lease for a supermarket in Glassell Park and plans a distribution center in the Inland Empire. The United Kingdom-based Tesco signed the lease with a partnership of Newport Beach-based Heslin Holdings Inc. and San Diego-based Retail Holdings LLC for a 32,500-sf former Albertsons store at 4211 Eagle Rock Blvd.

The Glassell Park market will be among the first group of Tesco’s US stores to open next year, according to Matthew Heslin, founder and president of Heslin Holdings. He says that his firm bought the property as part of a portfolio of stores that it acquired from Boise-based Albertsons.

The Tesco distribution center will be developed on an 88-acre site that the UK-based firm bought at Meridian, LNR Property Corp.’s business park located on the western portion of the former March Air Force Base in Riverside. The new distribution facility, which will occupy a site at the southeast corner of Meridian Parkway and Innovation Drive, is scheduled to open in mid 2007.

Tesco bought the distribution center site through its Tesco Stores West Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the firm, which operates more than 2,500 supermarkets, supercenters and convenience stores. The giant retailer was looking for a business park “with long-term value, which is important to us as an owner of our facility,” according to Tony Eggs, chief real estate officer in the US for Tesco.

Tesco’s facility is being designed by EA Bonelli & Associates of Oakland and will be constructed by the Facility Group of Newport Beach and Smyrna, GA. The Meridian development is a master-planned park of nearly 1,000 acres with three miles of freeway frontage on Interstate 215, a foreign trade zone designation, a future Metrolink Station and rail spurs.

Tesco has said in previous announcements that it planned to enter the US beginning on the West Coast in 2007. “The development of the business will be through organic growth,” with initial planned capital expenditures of up to several hundred million dollars per year, the company said.

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