A 120-acre greenfield site that is ripe for super-regional mall development is a rarity, especially in a trade area that's expected to grow to 500,000 by 2005. But Taubman Centers found one in the northern suburbs of Charlotte, N.C. The REIT purchased the site from locally-based developer Faison Associates last year and recently announced plans to break ground in September on a $160 million, 1.2 million-square-foot, two-level enclosed mall called NorthLake.

“This is one of the prime opportunities in the country,” says Steve Kieras, Taubman group vice president, development. Indeed, it's one of six new megamalls planned for the next five years. The site is at the intersection of I-77 and I-485 connector, which will complete a loop around the city by 2010. “The entire metro region will be totally accessible once the loop is completed,” says Kieras. “Until now, the better shopping in Charlotte is concentrated in the south, and the population has been too.” U.S. Census Data indicates that northern Charlotte will add more than 100,000 residents in 10 years.

The center, which will be anchored by Dillard's, Belk, Hecht's and two other as-yet-unnamed department stores, opens August 2005. The mall's 380,000 square feet of small shop space will include 150 tenants.

While Taubman is focusing on the enclosed mall portion of the development, it's also talking to potential tenants about a possible cineplex and an outdoor, Main Street-style area that may or may not be included in the mall's first phase. “The outdoor component is a provision and could be anywhere from 80,000 to 100,000 square feet” if there's enough interest, Kieras says.

Kieras doesn't anticipate much competition. “The existing regionals are far enough away that we don't expect a great deal of competition. Maybe we'll see some on a store-by-store basis, but not at the mall level.” Archrival Simon Property Group owns and operates the 1.1 million-square-foot SouthPark, Charlotte's current fortress mall located on the city's south side. SouthPark's anchors include Dillard's, Belk and Hecht's, the same as NorthLake. A Nordstrom-anchored luxury wing that could include another anchor store will open in 2004.