MURPHY, TX-A local developer, with 24 acres to seed, has landed LA Fitness as the anchor tenant for a project that’s been on the drawing board nearly four years. The 150,000-sf first phase to Murphy Plaza, carrying an all-in development tab of $20 million, will break ground in August.

The Irvine, CA-based LA Fitness has inked a long-term lease for a 45,000-sf build-to-suit in the community center, which will go up on one of two vacant corners at the intersection of FM 544 and North Murphy Road. LA Fitness will open doors in early 2008 with the rest of the space coming on line in the spring. A 100,000-sf second phase, banked until the first one’s filled, is carrying a tentative 2009 delivery date. The developer is Murphy Plaza LLC, a division of Southfork Properties.

“Murphy has finally matured to the point that it can accommodate this kind of retail,” Brian Glaser, president of Commercial/Retail D/FW for Dallas-based Weitzman Group, tells “We’re not being speculative on anything we’re building. It’s tenant-driven development.”

Glaser says he’s negotiating with one junior anchor and two pad site tenants. “There’s lots more news to come,” he vows. Murphy Plaza’s first phase has been platted for three junior anchor boxes, two multi-tenant buildings and four pad sites, all earmarked as ground leases.

“We knew LA Fitness needed a position in the market,” Glaser says. “We captured their interest when we told them we could build very quickly. What the developer was able to do was listen to their needs, move quickly and sign a lease in 30 days.” John Zikos, partner in Dallas-based Venture Commercial Real Estate Services, is LA Fitness’ tenant rep in North Texas.

Robert Holton, Dallas office director and senior project manager of Houston-based Heights Venture Architects LLC, designed Murphy Plaza. The project will wrap around a three-year-old Walgreens Drug Store and Sonic Drive-In Restaurant on the northwest corner. The intersection has one more vacant corner and the others built out with a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Store and Albertsons grocery store.

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