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CHICAGO-Construction will begin next month on MetraMarket, a 200,000-sf West Loop retail and restaurant development planned for two blocks bounded by Canal, Clinton, Lake and Washington streets near the Ogilvie Transportation Center. The development will be anchored by a European-style open-air market, and is expected to open in late spring 2009. Michael Tobin, recently hired SVP at US Equities Realty, declined to disclose the cost of the development, but company officials familiar with the project have previously told GlobeSt.com that it would come in at more than $40 million.

“The key to the whole thing is creating a high-quality, indoor, year-round French market,” Tobin said. “The idea is to bring some energy and retail presence to the unused space near the Ogilvie Transportation Center to serve the neighborhood that grew up around it. There was nothing around this train station 15 years ago; now you have residential and increasing commuter traffic.”

The development will be anchored by a 15,000-sf French market managed by Paris-based Sebastien Bensidoun, which will offer fresh produce, meats, fish, cheese and a bakery. CVS has signed another significant lease, planning a 14,000-sf pharmacy. “What you haven’t had is any new retail that has been open to serve the market,” Tobin said. “Not only will this serve the people living and working in the area, but people traveling through the Metra station.”

The development will offer 90,000 sf of retail space, and 110,000 sf of customer parking. The first phase will bring 60,000 sf of retail space, with the remaining 30,000 sf coming in the second phase, Tobin said. Lease rates at the MetraMarket range between $37.50 and $60, net, Tobin said. U.S. Equities, which is partnering with Metra in the development, is acting as leasing agent. MetraMarket is a little more than 50 percent pre-leased, Tobin said.

“It’s centrally located and is well-served by public transportation,” Tobin said. “There’s not a lot of competition or other retail space in the area, and this is large amount of retail space in one building. What retailers like is critical mass; they like to be with other retailers because they draw shoppers and shoppers cross shop. You have thousands of commuters each day, going in and out of the building.”

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