Signatures on the Sprouts lease appeared to be mere days or weeks away when we talked to Mark Henderson, Prescott Realty retail managing director, for our February cover story. But the Lake Highlands Town Center folks are still waiting for the specialty grocer to sign off.

"We hope it’s imminent, but we ultimately don’t have control of that," says Stephanie Colovas, Prescott’s senior managing director. "We’re very anxious to get it signed so we can move down the road, but it’s taking longer to get there, and it’s going to take longer with every tenant until things impove in the economy."

Prescott has every reason to believe the lease will be signed, according to Colovas, who adds that the delay has to do with timeline, not any leasing disagreements between the developer and the grocer, since Sprouts is working on a number of other projects that precede the Town Center store. Prescott’s lease is "in the queue", Colovas says, and "the ball is in Sprouts’s court — they’re just working through it. It’s just taking a long time to get there, like everything right now …. We have dialogue with them, and they’ve been great. Unfortunately, we can put only so much pressure on them, but they’re going to get it done when they’re going to get it done."

More on the timeline, after the jump:

Colovas says that, on top of the Sprouts lease, Prescott is working on "a number of other letters of intent," but they "need to have an anchor signed, and then other smaller tenants get comfortable with how it’s going to happen." Retailers are being extra cautious, she says, and are focused on cutting costs, not on new store expansions, and as a result, the Town Center will take longer to lease and open.

"I would say there was a never planned opening date per se," Colovas says. "It maybe will still open at the end of 2011, but it’s maybe been pushed out a ltitle bit," and "people get that in this environment," she continues, referring to neighbors’ understanding of the economic realities.

"That said," Colovas says, "we haven’t slowed down at all out at the site to get it ready for construction." Utilities are currently being installed; in June, construction will begin on the streets; park construction also will begin this summer; and DART light rail construction should begin in August. Retail and residential construction will still take place simultaneously, Colovas says — we "can’t get to that point [residential construction] until you’ve got leases in tow to show the lender you’ve got a viable project."

In the meantime, she says, "we’re moving dirt, talking to retailers … all of that is good; it’s just taking longer."