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FORT WORTH-RLand Properties has amassed 60 acres to develop three neighborhood centers with an estimated 230,000 sf and pad sites in North Fort Worth’s Texas 114 corridor. The land assembly took four years to complete in five transactions with local property owners.

Kipp Whitman, president of the Colleyville, TX-based development firm, tells GlobeSt.com that a 60,000-sf “upside down shopping center” will break ground at the end of 2008 near Harriet Creek and 170,000 sf in two centers, River’s Edge, will get under way in early 2009. The Tarrant County land assembly is “the only commercial land on 114, west of FM 156, up to Wise County that has city water and sewers,” he says.

With the last land deal now complete, Whitman says his team is close to signing deals with two national fast-food chains, a national automotive-related retailer for pad sites and has eight more prospective pad-site deals in the pipeline. He says he’s developed a “franchise” strategy that is resulting in 40% to 60% of RLand’s tenants at other projects signing up for space in its new developments, often long before ground breaks.

RLand has been developing neighborhood centers in the $5-million to $10- million range, tapping into key residential corners and accumulating nearly 300 acres in Tarrant County to ply its trade. Whitman says RLand’s specialty is the “unique” designs that it adds to each center. “They’re still strip centers, but the lipstick and the landscape are all priorities,” he says. And until now, the developments have been 40,000 sf or less on seven- to 10-acre sites.

Whitman says the housing debacle isn’t wreaking havoc on his development plans because the upcoming projects cater to boutique tenants in neighborhoods that are four to eight miles away from other shopping centers. First out of the RLand’s gate in 2008 will be the 42,000-sf Gardens at Colleyville, a 3.5-acre site along Colleyville Boulevard.

In the summer, work will start on the 60,000-sf Boot Hill Market Center, which is designed to resemble the Old West’s Deadwood city. The 11-acre project will go up at the corner of Sendera Ranch Boulevard and Diamondback Lane. It too will deliver in spring 2009.

In spring 2008, Whitman’s team will deliver Watuppa Springs, a 32,000-sf project on seven acres at 12400 Timberland Blvd. The three-building project is a turn-of-the century design, replete with a silo. Whitman says the ribbon-cutting is timed to coincide with Watuppa Springs’ centennial.

Part of Whitman’s spin is he is planning to create a Texas-size yarn about Watuppa Springs’ founding as part of the neighborhood center’s marketing plan. “We’re rebuilding most of the town,” he says, defending the marketing strategy to create a new legend.

The developer also is under construction on the 32,000-sf SoHi Village, going up along North Tarrant Parkway. It too will deliver next spring.

Whitman varies each project’s architects, designers and general contractors to ensure finished products won’t be mirror images and, as he says, boring gray concrete and brick facades. “But, the focus for the neighborhoods is identical in the sense that all are built for family gatherings. That’s why we chose the north side of Texas 114 because it’s the going-home side,” he says. “Our shopping centers are meant to give people a relief from the all the hustle and bustle and they are operated like lifestyle centers.”

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