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Developer in talks with anchor retailer

(ran PC, PW editions)

Primerica Group reports it's near a deal with a store interested in a new shopping center at SR 54 and Collier Parkway.

Developers said they are finalizing a deal with an undisclosed large retailer to occupy a horse farm at the corner of State Road 54 and Collier Parkway.

Primerica Group Inc., the Carrollwood-based developer that agreed to buy the Woods horse farm in late August, has been chasing a major tenant to anchor its proposed shopping center.

The chase has apparently ended. Jane Hope, Primerica's vice president of sales and leasing, said the company has landed what she calls a "sure thing."

Although the identity of Primerica's "sure thing" remains a secret, developers have been trying to interest a so-called big-box retailer along the lines of Best Buy, Target, Home Depot or Lowe's.

One of Primerica's previous projects is Heritage Plaza in Port Charlotte, a shopping center anchored by Marshall's, Circuit City and Pier One Imports.

"If it's not this company, it's another one. It's an extremely hot spot," Hope said. "We're talking to an enormous number of retailers. It's just a matter of finding the right one."

The 80-acre farm, owned by show horse aficionado Barbara Woods, is the last undeveloped piece of one of Pasco's most desirable commercial intersections.

Hope said the shopping center will help rectify the shortage of stores and restaurants in Land O'Lakes, where in 1999 alone developers won approval to build more than 3,000 new homes.

"Right now people who live in those subdivisions have to go to New Tampa, Bruce B. Downs or Dale Mabry," Hope said.

Depending on the type of stores lured to the intersection, the site could become a regional shopping mecca. As an example, Hope cites Best Buy, the chain of electronics superstores.

Since Best Buy has no stores within easy reach of Land O'Lakes, a branch on SR 54 would draw customers from the Hillsborough County communities of New Tampa, Lutz and Carrollwood.

Primerica's plans also call for a residential development of townhomes and apartments, as well as smaller businesses to accompany the anchor tenant. Hope said interest in leasing spaces in the shopping center has been brisk.

"We're getting five or six calls a day from local tenants," she said.