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LAS VEGAS-H Mart, a Korea-based grocery chain that puts an emphasis on Asian foods and ingredients, has signed a 20-year lease to anchor Asia Town, a 180,000-sf Asian-themed retail center here for which construction is expected to begin this spring. The center is expected to be up and running by spring 2009.

The development site is in the southwestern section of the Las Vegas Valley, on the southeast corner of Warm Springs Road and Jones Avenue. The developer is a joint venture of the locally based Development Funding Group and the San Diego-based McMahon Development Group.

“H Mart is the highest quality Asian grocer in the country, they’re like an Asian Whole Foods,” Chris Harden, VP of operations for Development Funding Group tells GlobeSt.com. “They are primarily located on the East Coast right now and are just now coming to the West Coast. They liked out site because the Asian population there is very dense.”

Other retailers seem to like the location as well. Tom Nguyen, the NAI Capital-affiliated broker with the preleasing assignment tells GlobeSt.com that 60% of the center has been spoken for by way of LOIs. The mix includes Asian ethnic tenants and national tenants. Key sub-anchors will include a large dim sum restaurant and a bank, he says.

“This will be by far the largest Asian shopping center in Las Vegas,” he says. “With a major tenant like H Mart affirming our location, we expect to see continued demand.”

To be landmarked by a pylon tower with a pagoda top, Harden says the project will cost approximately $60 million to develop. Its value upon completion and stabilization will be closer to $80 million, says Harden, citing an appraisal by CB Richard Ellis.

“We are talking to several construction lenders (banks) while bringing the last bit of equity into the deal,” he says. “We expect to begin rough grading in May and then go vertical in June.”

Development Funding Group has made its money buying and selling land. McMahon Group makes its money developing land, usually as a build-to-suit for corporate clients in the R&D, retail, medical and hospitality sectors.

“As the land business softened, we decided to develop,” Harden says. “We brought in McMahon because they have the construction experience to help us go vertical.”

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