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(Carl Cronan is editor of Real EstateFlorida.)

TAMPA, FL-Swedish home furnishing retailer Ikea is well on its way to building two stores in the Southeast. Ground has broken on a new location in Charlotte, NC, while demolition continues at a former industrial site in Tampa, FL, where construction is set to begin later this summer, as reported by GlobeSt.com.

The push began last year with the opening of two Florida stores in Sunrise and Orlando, as well as a centralized distribution center in Savannah, GA. Before that, the chain had just two regional stores in Atlanta and Woodbridge, VA.

The 356,000-sf Charlotte store will be built on 25 acres at the northeast corner of Interstate 85 and City Boulevard in Charlotte and is scheduled to open next spring. The Tampa store, which will measure 353,000 sf on 29 acres along Adamo Drive just south of Interstate 4, is slated to open in summer 2009.

“We will have a solid presence in the Southeast,” Joseph Roth, director of public affairs for Ikea North America, tells GlobeSt.com. He noted that the Savannah distribution center will service all six regional stores, which should help reduce transportation costs.

Roth adds that Ikea isn’t concerned about expanding within a nationwide economic slump, given that its stores already appeal to people looking to save money. He says Ikea posted $2.9 billion in US sales during fiscal year 2007, up from $2.5 billion the previous year, on the strength of its 29 existing stores.

“We go where we think our stores will function best and be convenient to customers,” Roth says. “We want to be well-positioned for when the economy turns around.”

The Charlotte store, part of a larger retail development encompassing more than 135 acres, will have 1,600 parking spaces and a 300-seat restaurant. After the store opens, Crescent Resources LLC will develop the surrounding 175-acre mixed-use Belgate development.

The Tampa store will occupy its own site, positioned between the Downtown and Brandon areas and adjacent to the Ybor City historic district. Ikea began demolishing buildings at the old Tampa International Center industrial park late last year and recently received construction permits earlier this month.

Ikea operates more than 250 stores in 34 countries, with plans for additional US stores in Brooklyn, NY, Portland, OR, Somerville, MA, Draper, UT and West Chester, OH. The yellow and blue stores typically include a mix of nearly 10,000 items, including ready-to-assemble furniture, plus a 300-seat restaurant serving Swedish meatballs and other fare.

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