Almost two years after it was first officially announced, the High Desert Gateway shopping center, anchored by the city's first Super Target store, broke ground Thursday morning.

Set to open in October 2008, the Target will share space with more than two dozen other businesses in the shopping center.

In addition to Super Target, a list of 17 other shops and restaurants were announced, including:

* Bath & Body Works
* Famous Dave's Barbecue Ribs
* Famous Footwear
* GameStop
* Happy Nail & Spa
* Juice It Up!
* Nubi Yogurt
* Maui Hawaiian BBQ
* Old Chicago pasta and pizza
* Pacific Dental
* Round Table Pizza
* Sport Clips
* Styles 4 Less
* Subway Restaurant
* Ultimate Gear
* UPS Store

According to officials at the Lewis Group, the company developing the shopping center, in the next two months, up to seven more businesses will be announced, including a clothing store, pet goods store and office supply store. When completed, there will be more than 360,000 square feet of retail space and generate an estimated $1 million in annual sales tax.

"I'm so excited," Mayor Rita Vogler told those gathered," "It's like the store's open already."

The new shopping center, which marks the largest retail store to open in Hesperia since the K-Mart opened at Main Street and E Avenue in 1988 marks "a new era of retail development in Hesperia," according to Hesperia's Economic Development Director, Steve Lantsberger.

Thursday, the entire council was on hand, along with more than 100 representatives of the city, the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce, local government and business leaders for the ceremonial turning of dirt with (spray-painted) golden shovels. But construction work was already underway earlier in the day, with heavy machinery grading the 32.7-acre site while water sprayed from plastic tubing to help control dust during the building process.

"This is a big day for us, our family," said Richard Lewis, the head of the Lewis Group. And he suggested more big days are in the offing, with more than 240 acres of adjacent property slated for retail development. "You start adding all of that up, and maybe an auto center at Ranchero Road, and you end up with 3 million square feet [of retail space] without even trying."

City officials, Target representatives and representatives of the Lewis Group "first met across the street in a conference room at Holiday Inn Express" in August 2004, Lantsberger said. The public first officially heard about the shopping center at the October 5, 2005 city council meeting.

"Everybody in the city has worked many hours to get us here today," he said.

"I look forward to shopping here next Christmas," Vogler said.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.