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Deer Creek financing secured

| Thursday, Feb. 3, 2005

With a financing plan finally in place, construction could start as soon as this spring at the site of the $124 million Deer Creek Crossing retail complex in Harmar.

And even though the long-delayed project is less than five miles from another major Allegheny County-based development, Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer, there's room for both projects to be successful, real estate experts said Tuesday.

"There definitely is room for both projects, and I think both are having some strong success in leasing," said Jack Norris, president of CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh, a Downtown-based commercial real estate firm.

Norris said his office is representing a number of retailers interested in locating at the Deer Creek mall, but he declined to identify them.

"That is a growing area (the Alle-Kiski Valley) that is under-retailed," said Matt Schaefer, associate at Hendrickson Retail Group in Collier. "There's no reason why the two projects cannot live together harmoniously."

Stephen Coslik, CEO of The Woodmont Co., the Texas-based development company that will build the Deer Creek project on 260 acres on Route 910 between Route 28 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike was not available for comment yesterday.

But Coslik previously said the project, once started, could be completed within two years.

The controversial project has been delayed for years by strong opposition, including by environmental groups concerned with its potential impact on wetlands and Deer Creek, a prime fishing stream that runs through a portion of the property.

Allegheny County Council yesterday voted 12-2 to approve a tax-increment financing plan to support it.

The financing plan, considered the last major hurdle for Deer Creek Crossing, will divert 80 percent of the property tax revenue from the mall to pay for road improvements to Routes 28 and 910 that are deemed necessary for the project that has promised to generate 3,000 permanent jobs, including 2,500 retail jobs, 120 hotel jobs and 320 office jobs.

Woodmont has not announced an official roster of signed tenants, but its Internet site shows a list of potential anchor retailers that includes Target, Costco, Home Depot, Giant Eagle, OfficeMax, PETsMART, Michaels Arts & Crafts, Best Buy, Marshalls and Famous Footwear.

While the Deer Creek project awaits a start, the $285 million Pittsburgh Mills shopping and entertainment complex already is under construction on 260 acres off Route 28 in Frazer.

As reported, the Pittsburgh Mills project will be divided into two sections: the 110-acre Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, a 1.1 million-square-foot indoor retail and entertainment mall scheduled to open July 14; and the Village of Pittsburgh Mills, a collection of mostly "big-box" tenants scheduled to open at a date to be announced later.

The Mills Corp., the Arlington, Va.-based developer of the mall, already has confirmed a number of retail and entertainment tenants, including Kaufmann's and J.C. Penney department stores, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Lowe's Home Improvement, Dick's Sporting Goods, Sears Grand, Linens 'n Things, Borders Books and Music, a 115-room Springhill Suites hotel, and branches of PNC and First Commonwealth banks, as well as a Longhorn Steak House, Eat 'n Park and Steak 'n Shake .

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