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CHARLOTTE, NC-As the Carolinas’ first Ikea nears completion, the home furnishings retailer has named Feb. 18, 2009 as the 356,000-square-foot store’s opening date. Originally the store wasn’t expected to open until the spring. The Charlotte Ikea, located at the northeastern corner of Interstate 85 and City Boulevard, will be the fifth in the Southeast, with the other locations in Atlanta, Woodbridge, VA, Orlando and Sunrise, FL. After February the Sweden-based company will have a total of 36 stores throughout the US, until this summer when the 353,000-square-foot Tampa, FL store on 29 acres along Adamo Drive opens, making the count 37.

“We made excellent progress on construction in the summer and fall, so we are thrilled, yet confident, the remaining construction milestones and interior build-up process will be complete by February–much earlier than originally envisioned,” said Richard Castanon, store manager of the future Ikea Charlotte, in a release. “Now our primary goal is hiring and training the nearly 400 local hires joining the Ikea family before we open.”

The newest store is set to include 49 room settings, three model home interiors, a 350-seat café offering snacks and small meals including Ikea’s famous Swedish meatballs, a supervised children’s play area, baby care rooms and preferred parking. The value of the project has not been disclosed.

Opening in the midst of a recession does not have the furniture retailer worried, says Joseph Roth, director of public affairs for Ikea North America. “Expectations for the Charlotte location are just as they are for any other,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “We think Charlotte is a vibrant home furnishing market where people value good design and good function. And in uncertain economic times we believe Ikea stands out because there is an emphasis on value.”

The 25-acre Ikea site, which includes 1,600 parking spaces, is surrounded by 175-acres to be developed by Charlotte-based Crescent Resources LLC. The firm plans to build 400,000 square feet of retail, up to 720 residential units and two hotels with up to 200 rooms each on the site to be called Belgate. Ground site work has already begun, but vertical construction won’t begin for another year, says Carrie McNeil, sales and leasing associate with Crescent.

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