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WESTWOOD, MA-The first shovelful of dirt has yet to be lifted but tenants are already lining up to be part of Westwood Station, the $1.5-billion, 4.5-million-sf mixed-use development planned for a 135-acre University Avenue site here.

“This project has been on people’s radar for some time,” Cal Hudak, with Richards Barry Joyce & Partners’ Boston office, tells GlobeSt.com, adding that there has been “tremendous” interest in the lifestyle center from both local and national tenants eager to get in on the ground floor.

New England Development is the exclusive retail broker. And Hudak, whose firm was recently selected as the exclusive commercial leasing agent by local developer Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, says the RBJ leasing team, which includes Michael Frisoli and Robert Richards, has been fielding inquiries from “a wide range of groups” about space in the project. “We’re really seeing interest from the whole spectrum,” he says. Although no leases have yet been signed, that is expected to change in the next few months as Westwood Station begins to go vertical.

The project, whose first phase is expected to be completed by late 2008 or early 2009, will add 1.4 million sf of retail and restaurants space, 1.5 million sf of office and laboratory space, 1,000 residential units and two hotels on a site adjacent to Route 128 and the Westwood commuter rail stop.

The retail space, developed by New England Development in partnership with CC&F and the developer’s joint venture partner, Commonfund Realty Inc., will include a mix of leading restaurants and specialty retailers which may include some well-known but as yet undisclosed Boston names.

“The goal is to create a downtown setting in the suburbs so we’ve been talking to a wide range of users in downtown and in Cambridge,” Hudak says.

Demolition began on the site in September when Testa Construction of Lynnfield began tearing down the 260,000-sf General Motors building in what will be the core development area. The demolition of several other buildings is expected to begin in the spring. A key component of the design will be the reconstruction of an existing highway ramp that will improve traffic flow to Westwood Station and curtail traffic through the surrounding neighborhood.

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