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FRISCO, TX-After a 2.5-year hold on the land, the Gault Co. has just started site work on a 53-acre tract for an all-green retail project. Carrying an all-in development tag of $55 million, Custer Bridges will consist of a 400,000-sf lifestyle center and another 35,000 sf on six pad sites.

Roger Gault, president of the Dallas-based namesake company, tells GlobeSt.com that Custer Bridges’ space from stem to stern will be CS LEED-certified or LEED-qualified at the very least. That includes ground-up construction on 15 acres of ground-leased pads, fronting Custer Road and Texas 121.

To date, pads have been leased in 10- to 20-year pacts to ExxonMobil Corp. of Irving, TX, Starbucks Corp. of Seattle, Memphis-based First Horizon Bank and Red Robin International Inc. of Greenwood Village, CO. The two remaining pad sites will be filled with 7,000-sf and 14,000-sf retail strip buildings, which have been preleased to Bankers Financial Mortgage Group, Firehouse Subs, Cellular City, Prince Bistro and a nail salon. Pad sites will deliver in October so work can begin on the buildings. Gault says the pad-site tenants will be open for business at the end of second quarter 2008.

Good Fulton & Farrell Inc. of Dallas designed Custer Bridges, creating a master plan with three vehicular and pedestrian wood bridges to connect the pad sites to a 38-acre tract reserved for the lifestyle center. Rogers & O’Brien Construction Co., also from Dallas, is doing the site work and could be doing some vertical work as well. Jensen Commercial Inc. of Fort Worth will build the retail strip centers for Gault, who’s teamed with a private equity backer from Dallas to make the project a reality.

“The architect told us that we’re the first [retail] developer that’s been willing to spend the money to become LEED certified,” Gault says. “They’re used to institutional clients, but not developer clients.” Among the LEED ingredients will be energy-efficient roofs, upgraded storefront glass and HVAC systems and permeable concrete paving.

Jeff Good, principal in the Dallas-based architectural firm, says Custer Bridges could be a first for Dallas/Fort Worth in terms of multi-tenant CS LEED-certified retail space. “There’s one in Austin, but there’s none in Dallas/Fort Worth that I’m aware of,” he adds.

Good says Custer Bridges’ design required “several hundred of additional hours” because of the LEED requirement by Gault and his equity partner. “He’s making a commitment, a capital cost upfront, and the payback will more than benefit the tenants,” he says.

Gault has spent two years chasing a US Army Corps of Engineers’ approval to alter a creek that bisects the acreage so it can be used as a project amenity for the lifestyle center, which will break ground in 2008. The city’s hike and bike trail also passes through Gault’s land.

Gault says the plan is to market Custer Bridges’ lifestyle component to national retailers of soft goods, restaurateurs and entertainment operators. The lifestyle center’s marketing has been on the back burner pending all approvals. “We are ready to start the hard marketing,” he says, adding Dallas-based Retail Connection team will be rolling out the campaign in the coming weeks. Leading the charge is the Retail Connection’s Steve Greenberg, Jeremy Zidell and Brandon Trimble, who’ve secured $24 per sf to $32 per sf rates for the retail strip space.

Gault’s site sits at a hard corner at the kissing point of Allen, Plano, McKinney and Frisco, all with significant retail projects in place or under way. The developer says his land is just the right distance from two major intersections filled with retail and precisely midway between them. “We’re pretty strategically located,” he says. “It’s been a long time in coming. And, we’ve been extremely sensitive to the design and the creek.”

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