The developer of a proposed $120 million outlet mall in Robstown said he is beginning to see support from potential tenants, although the sluggish national economy is still leading most to wait before signing leases.

Rick Carduner, president of Dolphin Ventures I LLC, said last week that 67 potential tenants, that make up about 80 percent of the spaces available, have expressed their desire to be housed in the proposed outlet mall, currently known as The Outlets at Corpus Christi Bay. However, none of the potential tenants' desire have been expressed in the form of a signed lease, yet, he added.

"They've told us basically how big they want their store, they've told us how much they'll pay," They haven't signed anything - it's a dance right now. They want to have their sites lined up for what they're going to do in 2010, but they don't want to commit any funds because they don't have funds right now because of the financing and lack of retail sales."

The proposed outlet mall, which has had its opening date pushed back to late 2010, is scheduled to be built on 50 acres of county-owned land adjacent to the Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds. Even though Dolphin Ventures has paid nearly $80,000 to the county thus far for the project, the land is still legally owned by the county until the purchase agreement is signed, county leaders have previously said.

Dolphin Ventures has already proposed to spend more than $2.5 million for about 50 acres to house its proposed outlet mall, which will have 60 to 80 retail stores. It will be the first of a two-phase project, developers said, and will cost about $60 million.

The second phase, at an estimated cost of $60 million, will see the addition of about 300,000 square feet on another 23 acres of land next to the existing outlet mall property, which was purchased by the developer privately without the county's involvement.

After the first phase of construction is completed, the outlet mall is expected to generate about $2 million annually in sales tax revenue for the City of Robstown, which has already experienced record sales tax growth over the past few months. That number could grow to about $3.5 million after the completion of the second phase of the project.

In addition, developers said the first phase of the project will result in about 160 full-time positions and more than 500 part-time positions. Developers said they expect a total of 295 full-time jobs and more than 900 part-time jobs after the second phase is completed. It is also expected to generate a projected 4 to 5 million shopping visits a year.

The City of Robstown is in the process of creating a reinvestment zone for the outlet mall site and has already gone through the first reading for the new ordinance. A second and final reading, which will ultimately create the reinvestment zone, will take place in February.

The city has already committed to a $14 million tax incentive agreement, which will allow the developer to be paid that amount from sales tax revenue over a set period of time to reimburse costs for infrastructure improvements. The total given back to the developer cannot go over $14 million and will only be given back through sales taxes generated by the outlet mall.

But the project cannot go forward until the economy begins to show signs of improvements, Carduner said.

"The project is without a doubt a go, as soon as the economy does a recovery," Carduner said.

Until then, the developer has said tenants are willing to wait out the storm to take advantage of its location in Robstown.

"The tenants are slowly allowing us to put them on the plan to be shared within the industry so they can see who else is going and that's the key," Carduner said. "We have some of the bigger names already committed and that makes the tier-two players committed.

"We're in really good shape if it wasn't for this little problem we're having with the meltdown of our economy."