Ikea, the world's leading home furnishing retailer, announced Wednesday that it will expand its presence into the Southeast region of the U.S., with plans to begin construction in North Carolina within months.

IKEA said on Wednesday that it is in negotiations with city officials of Charlotte, North Carolina, to open a 345,000 square-foot furniture retail store occupying of 2 acres of land. The firm also plans to sell nearly three acres for complementary retail and restaurant uses.

We know IKEA Charlotte will be more convenient to existing customers while also introducing the unique IKEA family-friendly shopping experience to new shoppers throughout the Carolinas, said Doug Greenholz, IKEA real estate manager.

In addition to traditional retail offerings, the Charlotte store will feature three model homes, 50 room settings, a supervised children’s play area, and a 300-seat restaurant.

The company plans on hiring nearly 400 local residents if the store is approved by local officials. Current planning anticipates construction to begin next summer, and a full opening in the Spring of 2009.

The store will join IKEA's other Southeastern U.S. store in Atlanta, and a Sunrise, Florida which is scheduled to open in Fall 2007.