By Todd Leskanic Staff writer
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SOUTHERN PINES – A California developer has picked a different site, near U.S. 1 and Midland Road, for a proposed retail outlet center with hotels and a golf course.

Bob Sonnenblick of Sonnenblick Development said he is no longer interested in a 114-acre property on Morganton Road that he had previously discussed.

His new focus for a 335,000-square-foot outlet center, three high-end hotels and a golf course is 550 acres near the Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club. The same site was previously proposed for the controversial 800-home Pine Needles Village development, which the Southern Pines Town Council voted down in 2008.

“The U.S. 1 site has a huge amount of highway frontage and visibility and much better access than the other properties we looked at,” Sonnenblick said. “So we’re really thrilled to have finally landed in the right spot within the Pinehurst-Southern Pines marketplace.”

Sonnenblick said potential tenants also were uncomfortable with traffic issues at the Morganton Road site and feared that high infrastructure costs would drive up rents at the outlet center.

An outlet center would be the first of its kind in the Cape Fear region. The closest centers for outlet shoppers are in Smithfield, Charlotte, Burlington, the Triangle and Myrtle Beach, S.C.

No property has changed hands. The 550 acres are owned by the Bell family, who own Pine Needles and the Mid Pines Inn & Golf Club, which is across Midland Road.

Kelly Miller, president of the resorts, said the family has acquired a bulk of the property since the late 1980s.

“We knew we were going to develop this acreage somehow or other,” Miller said. “We had attempted to to do this with Pine Needles Village several years ago, so now we think it makes sense to master plan the entire tract and move forward.”

Sonnenblick said the outlet center would be built first. He said he plans to bring in four-star hotel brands for the 300-room hotels, and he described the golf course as “championship high-end.” Roughly 100 acres would be kept vacant for wetlands and include a horse trail, he said.

The goal is to have the outlet center open in time for the 2014 U.S. Open Championship and U.S. Women’s Open Championship.

Sonnenblick was in Moore County for three days last week and met with officials from Southern Pines and the county to discuss the proposal.

“We got very positive feedback,” he said. “The reason for that is we’re going to create in excess of 1,000 jobs and millions of dollars of sales and bed tax from a property that is now vacant.”

Staff writer Todd Leskanic can be reached at or 486-3511.

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