The face of retail in Las Cruces is changing – for the better. After years of waning commercial rental rates and increased vacancies, commercial investment is on the rise in the Mesilla Valley. Take the retail sector, for example. “Business is steady,” said Jake Redfearn, principal associate broker at NAI 1st Valley Realty in Las Cruces.
“We have some retailers who have been keeping their eyes on Las Cruces for the past five years”, Redfearn added. “Some, such as Starbucks, are now seeing economic indicators that match the criteria they require to open or expand their businesses in the area.” Starbucks announced last week that plans are in the works to open a new location at the intersection of Sonoma Ranch Boulevard and Bataan Memorial Highway.
Plans are also in the works to repurpose the former K-Mart location at 1900 Bataan Memorial Hwy., to attract retailers that typically cluster in centers like the Laguna Seca Shopping Center at 3050 E. Lohman Ave., according to Redfearn. National retailers, such as Marshall’s, Ross Dress for Less and TJ Maxx occupy similar high-visibility, high-traffic locations.
“Three years ago, we had to beg retailers and restaurateurs to consider moving or expanding into downtown Las Cruces,” said Bob Pofahl, managing partner of Las Cruces Community Partners, LLC and the developer of many downtown projects. “Today, we have a waiting list for tours.”
The Sun-News recently reported that the Dragonfly farm-to-table restaurant will soon open at 139 N. Main Street, former home of the Main Street Bistro across from the new downtown plaza.
“Other restaurants are currently looking at downtown locations,” said Pofahl. The developer added that “We have letters of intent from two restaurants that want to occupy the former Dona Ana County Manager’s Complex at 430 S. Main St.” Locals often refer to the site at the corner of Main Street and Amador Avenue that has sat partially remodeled for more than a decade as “The Eyesore.”
The Camunez Building, also across the street from the new plaza and next door to the Rio Grande Theatre, will soon be transformed into Rubix Arcade Bar, which according to their Facebook page is a “Unique bar with classic arcade video games, retro music and all-ages access on Sunday afternoons.” The Amador Project, which is currently under construction at the site of the former My Brother’s Place restaurant, will house four new restaurants, retail shops and the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau. The project is slated to open in early 2018.
“Plans for the Doña Ana Hotel and Conference Center are still ongoing,” said Pofahl. The ambitious project aims to convert the former Doña Ana County Courthouse into a four-star boutique hotel with 127 rooms, a pool, roof top bar and retail shops. Construction is slated to begin on the $22 million project at the conclusion of the realignment of Church and Water Streets to two-way traffic, which is already under way and scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.
Another large-scale project that has recently broken ground is the 110-acre Park Ridge Urban Village at the former site Las Cruces Country Club. The 30-plus-acre first phase of the development is already under way and will be home to a hospital and medical businesses. The second and third phases of development will center on turning the site into an “urban village” that will include retail and dining; residential and multifamily housing; and parks, walking trails and open space, according to a previous Sun-News report.
And then there’s the Mesilla Valley Mall. Malls across the country have been falling like dominoes and are being re-purposed as entertainment venues, also known as retail-tainment, which is the concept of adding large entertainment and experience venues to the retail mix. “Perhaps the biggest challenge the property faces is that its anchors include Sears and JC Penney, both of which have been closing stores, making lenders leery of providing financing. After all, if one or both stores eventually close, other inline stores could shutter as well, which would likely reduce the property’s cash flow,” said Orsest Mandzy of Commercial Real Estate Direct, which, according to their website www.commercialdirect.com, provides alternative lending solutions for businesses.
Orest also noted that while the mall generated $4.5 million in revenue last year, which is 40 percent more than needed to fully meet the property’s mortgage obligation, the retail center failed to meet the July 11 maturity date for its current mortgage. As a result, the loan has been moved to KeyCorp Real Estate Capital Markets Inc’s special servicing unit to explore the mall’s options going forward. Mall management did not return an email asking for comment and KeyCorp declined to comment.
Both Redfearn and Pofahl are enthusiastic about the state of our local commercial sector and predict that the public will see the fruits of today’s labor throughout 2018 and beyond.
See you at closing!
By: Gary Sandler (For the Sun-News)
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