New Upscale Shopping Center Breaks Ground in Amarillo, Texas

Apr. 20--Construction will begin this week on a $10 million upscale shopping center to be completed near the end of the year.

The Forum at Soncy will occupy eight acres and contain 65,000 square feet of retail space on the northwest corner of Soncy Road and Southwest 34th Avenue, Lubbock developer Bob Muzyka said Wednesday.

It will feature "high-end" national, regional and local retailers, said Muzyka, a partner in Lubbock-based GRACO Real Estate Development.

"After studying the market, we determined a need for a high-quality, upscale shopping center," he said. "We were aware of a handful of upscale national retailers that had an interest in Amarillo. We believe there are several other national and local retailers that will commit to the project once we begin construction."

An 18,200-square-foot Cost Plus World Market will anchor the open-air center, Muzyka said.

The World Market store, set to open in early to mid-2007, will be a first in the area for the chain, which has 10 stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, one in Santa Fe, N.M., and one in Albuquerque, N.M, spokeswoman Katie Cvitovich, said.

"World Market is thrilled to be opening a store in Amarillo," she said. "Walking into our store, the environment gives the overall feeling of being in a modern-day bazaar. Guests can discover home furnishings, gourmet food and wine imported from around the world, and offered at an exceptional value."

Stores in the chain typically occupy 16,000 square feet and employ about 30 people, she said.

Clothing retailers such as Coldwater Creek, Jos. A. Bank and Chico's, as well as Guitar Center, have leased property in The Forum, GRACO leasing agent Brad Andrews said.

National representatives of Jos. A. Bank and Chico's could not be reached for confirmation, and Guitar Center spokesman Robbie Clyne said he could not confirm the store lease Wednesday.

Renee Middleton, manager of the existing Amarillo Chico's at 2203 S. Georgia St., also could not confirm a Chico's store coming to The Forum.

"I had not heard that yet," Middleton said.

Coldwater Creek's 5,000-square-foot store will open in late February or early March 2007, spokesman David Gunter said. It will employ about 30 people.

"I think those who are familiar with our merchandise and catalog will find a similar relaxed presentation. Our merchandise is known for being casual and very colorful. The store setting is very inviting and very relaxed," Gunter said, describing a decor with wood accents, muted lighting and a water feature.

Coldwater Creek stores typically display a selection of hard goods and gift items among the apparel offerings, he said -- "everything from wineglasses to silk flowers to coffee table books, pillows and throws."

The chain already has a cadre of more than 25,000 catalog customers in a 40- to 50-mile radius, Gunter said.

Coldwater Creek has benefitted, Gunter said, from the trend toward development of the open-air "lifestyle" shopping centers, such as The Forum.

When completed, the center will contain about 12 tenants. Two pad sites of roughly 50,000 square feet each also will be developed on the site to accommodate more retail and restaurant operations, Muzyka said.

"We are talking to several restaurants," he said.

GRACO seized an opportunity to build The Forum "just because we felt there wasn't an existing high-quality, upscale center in the market," Muzyka said.

The Lubbock developer purchased 11 acres at 34th and Soncy for The Forum from the Bush Estate and trustee Wendy Marsh, said broker Bo Wulfman of J. Gaut & Associates Commercial Real Estate in Amarillo. GRACO subsequently sold three acres, Muzyka said.

Wulfman and Muzyka declined to divulge the property price.

Wiley Hicks Jr. Inc. of Amarillo will build the shopping center.

GRACO's other Amarillo-area development projects include the site at Gem Lake Road and Amarillo Boulevard that contains United Supermarket and Hastings Entertainment stores and the United/Hastings site in Canyon, Muzyka said.

The company developed Kingsgate Center, an upscale shopping complex in Lubbock begun in 1986 and completed in 1990. The center has been 95 percent occupied for the past six years, he said.

<<Amarillo Globe-News (Texas) (KRT) -- 04/24/06>>

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