Rouse Co. has landed Neiman Marcus as its first anchor in Forsyth Commons, a planned $350 million open-air regional mall 35 minutes outside of Atlanta. Neiman Marcus committed to a 120,000-sq.-ft. full-line department store, according to the Texas-based retailer and Rouse.

The Columbia, Md.-based developer plans 1.4 million feet of retail as part of massive mixed-use project on 151 acres in Forsyth County, one of the fastest-growing counties in metro Atlanta. Rouse submitted its rezoning plans to the county last February. “Neiman's is the foundation for the project,” says Michael Bryant, vice president and associate development director. “Leading with Neiman's clearly sets the quality level for the proposed mall.”

Rouse is in talks with other anchors, including Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue. Forsyth Commons is expected to have up to four anchors, though only 1 million sq. ft. will be built initially.

The project would be built in three phases. The first, to be completed in late 2005, includes most of the planned retail space, 100,000 sq. ft. of office space and 375 residential units. Later phases would include more retail and office space and a 500-room hotel by 2011.

In the North Atlanta area, Rouse Co. is competing with Michigan-based Taubman Centers to build a high-end mall. General Growth Properties is also in the running with the same anchor stores to expand its existing North Point Mall in Alpharetta, several exits closer to Atlanta.

In signing Neiman Marcus, Forsyth Commons appears to be ahead in the game. Metro Atlanta boasts several other high-end regional centers, including Lenox Square.

Renée DeGross covers retail business and development for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.