A boatload of upscale tenants is invading the panhandle resort town of Destin, Fla. Ranging from Abercrombie & Fitch to Bass Pro Shops, the retailers will be part of the latest development from locally based Legendary Inc. and Aventura, Fla.-based Turnberry Associates — a mixed-use center called Destin Commons.

A town center format will distinguish the project, which features an open-air configuration and individual, two-level storefront facades, says Drew Barkett, director of retail development and real estate for Turnberry.

Destin residents number 350,000, and the town sees 5 million tourists pass through each year. “There is a demand for high-end shopping,” says Legendary Inc.'s Peter Bos. “This pen-insula area is really in the backyard of Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia.”

Destin Commons' tenant lineup includes abercrombie, Benetton, Bombay Company, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Goldfish Restaurant of Atlanta, Hollister & Co., Starbucks and Swim N Sport.

“People are here to enjoy the sun and the beach,” Barkett says. “There is no downtown Destin. They need a place to take the family for shopping, food and entertainment.”

Bos admits he was surprised when Bass Pro Shops expressed an interest in joining the development. But Bos says the sporting goods retailer's presence will likely double the lengths of consumers' shopping trips if sports enthusiasts browse Bass Pro while the more traditional shoppers in the family spend time at specialty tenants such as AnnTaylor Loft, Victoria's Secret, Belk Resort Store and Limited Too.

Locally based Coleman L. Kelly Testamentary Trust, owner of the acreage being used for the site, is helping Turnberry and Legendary Inc. put up the $100 million for Destin Commons' initial phase. The leasing principal on the project is Retail Estate, which handled leasing for two other popular Florida retail centers, CocoWalk in Coconut Grove and Baywalk in St. Petersburg.

Heavy equipment is already hard at work building infrastructure for the site, and ground breaking for Phase I — 440,000 sq. ft. of retail including second-level office space — is set for October. The project, which will eventually include 660,000 sq. ft., is scheduled for completion in 2003.

A second phase is now in the planning stages.