The Truman Show?

Now the Austin, Tex., entertainment industry will have a real estate project to call its own. The developers of Villa Muse, a $1.5 billion mixed-use development that focuses on music and entertainment, recently secured funding and land for the nearly 700-acre development. The news coincided with the passing of Texas legislation that allows incentives to the film industry to come into the state.

Villa Muse, just east of downtown Austin, will be anchored by a $125 million, 200-acre studio that will have high-end production and post-production facilities for film, television, advertising, music and video game companies. Other amenities will include soundstages, recording studios, an amphitheater and the largest outdoor water tank for film production in the country.

Locals will have a chance to be a part of the action, too. There are plans for a residential community of 8,500 people that will ring the production studio and will be built in "neighborhoods" that can be used as live backdrops for film and television scenes. Homes will be sold to the public. Retail, office and hotel space will also be developed in the boulevards leading to the studio.

Jay Aaron Podolnick, a producer, partnered with real estate developer Carpenter & Associates to create the project. The first phase, which will include the soundstage, is expected to be open by the end of next year.


Glimcher and UltraStar Cinemas joined forces to build the $300 million Shoppes at Surprise Pointe, in Surprise, Ariz. The $75 million first phase of the project, which is slated to break ground this month, will include more than 250,000 square feet of retail and a 14-screen UltraStar movie theater.

The next phases of the project include 600,000 square feet of office and entertainment space, such as a spa. The first phase of Surprise Pointe is slated to open in May 2008, and the balance of the space will open in the fall of that year. Though no fashion retailers have committed to the project yet, Walgreens, Baskin-Robbins and a local restaurant, Blue Burrito, have all signed deals.

The joint venture plans to build six more entertainment and retail complexes in Arizona in the next three years, though not all of them are expected to be as large as the 300-acre Surprise Pointe. Most will be in the 20- to 100-acre range, said a Glimcher executive.A GREEN GAMBLE

If you'd like to play craps under a canopy of orchids, you may be in luck. Myriad Entertainment & Resorts came one step closer to launching its casino-greenhouse project by acquiring more than 500 acres of land in Tunica, Miss., from a local owner. The company has entitlements in place for the project, which includes zoning for up to six casinos.

The company's immediate plans for the Myriad Botanical Resort include a 200-foot-high botanical garden, an 8,000-square-foot casino, a 1,200-room hotel, a 375,000-square-foot convention center, an 18-hole golf course and 250,000 square feet of retail space.


The 1.3 million-square-foot Cityplace Center project in downtown Dallas, first built in the Eighties as 7-Eleven Inc.'s headquarters, will be recast as The Tower at Cityplace. Ashkenazy & Agus Ventures, a Florida developer that partnered with Barrow Street Capital to acquire the site for $125 million from Brandywine Realty Trust, will break ground on the redevelopment this year. It plans to incorporate a boutique hotel, condominiums, retail, restaurants and a spa.

The redevelopment, billed as an "island" in the middle of the city, will also offer tennis courts, swimming pools and restaurants. Ashkenazy & Agus' other projects include Bay Harbour Mall in New York, Monmouth Mall in New Jersey and residential projects in Florida.


Konover South partnered with a number of different pension funds to form a $200 million fund to acquire retail properties in South Florida. Another $150 million fund will redevelop the properties or build new retail projects from the ground up. Konover South is seeking grocery-anchored shopping centers and power centers in Florida, and has four sites for new development under contract. The company owns more than a dozen properties in Florida and the Southeast.

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