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LIVERMORE, CA-Outlet center developer Prime Retail announced Wednesday 17 new tenants for a planned 470,000-square-foot outlet center along Interstate 580 in this East Bay suburb. A company source tells GlobeSt.com that it has received non-binding commitments for 50% of the development and the new tenants announced today are the first to be converted to signed leases since Neiman Marcus Last Call was announced as the anchor tenant in May 2008. Construction on the center will begin when Prime Retail has signed leases for 50% of the project, according to the source. The current tentative opening date for the $156-million project is late 2010.

“We continue to see leasing momentum and are working really closely with [retailers] to deliver a product that works for them,” the source says. “Our goal is always to be 100% leased when we open but we generally set aside a few spaces [because] we find that as a project gains momentum there arise opportunities to bring in additional brands” that weren’t previously interested.

The 17 new stores announced for the project include Adidas Outlet Store; Ann Taylor Factory Store; Banana Republic Factory Store; Barneys New York; BCBG Maxazria; Brooks Brothers Factory Store; Dooney & Bourke; Coach Factory; Columbia Sportswear; Gap Outlet; J. Crew Factory Store; Michael Kors; Michael Stars; Nine West; Sunglass Station; Tommy Hilfiger; and True Religion Brand Jeans.

“Typically [the outlet industry] has a tendency to perform better [than the full-price retail industry],” the source says, “Lower operating costs and strong margins afford these brands a significant, profitable channel of distribution.”

Indeed, Simon Property Group, which owns both full-price malls and outlet centers, reported in January that its premium outlet mall portfolio was 98.9% leased and that sales growth was 1.8% while occupancy in its mall portfolio fell 40 basis points to 94.5% and comparable sales declined 4.3%. Its mall performance was “a direct result of the unprecedented weak 2008 holiday season experienced across the US and in particular the performance of luxury and higher end retailers,” David Simon told analysts.

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