FACE-LIFT For Santa Fe Place
$30 Million Renovation Will Make It Premier Destination
Journal Staff Writer
Santa Fe Place may be on the verge of a multimillion dollar renovation aimed at taking it from a retail also-ran to northern New Mexico’s premier shopping destination.
“The goal is, No. 1, is for this mall to be relevant again and an integral part of the community and with the right mix of merchants and the right mix of community space, to (take it) where the community will just love this place,” said Tommy Miller, president of Trademark Property Co., owners of the mall.
The renovation is expected to cost between $30 million and $40 million and could take place as soon as next year. Preliminary ideas include an outdoor promenade, sit-down restaurants and a new food court, as well as a redesign that offers a lot more glass and natural sunlight.
New entrances are also on the table, and the exterior would probably have a more urban look than most buildings in the City Different.
“It’s not the Santa Fe Plaza or Old Town Albuquerque. It’s a little bit edgy, but it’s warm, contemporary architecture that relates to the community,” Miller said.
Ultimately, the mall’s new owners hope to make the mall a city center with broad appeal that locals and tourists alike will visit even without a specific shopping objective, Miller said. In particular, the company wants the space to fill a niche for the south Santa Fe community.
Trademark, in partnership with a private equity firm, purchased Santa Fe Place nearly a year ago. At the time, Miller told the Journal that merchandising and sales performances at the mall were poor, and about a third of the space at the 571,238-squarefoot shopping center was vacant.
Miller described the mall as “in pretty bad shape” and promised that a revival was in the works.
Trademark is now working to assemble the right mix of tenants — “the redevelopment can only happen if we have enough new leases with retailers,” Miller said.
A centerpiece is the now vacant Mervyn’s building, which the company recently purchased for just over $4 million. Miller declined to provide the names of potential lessees. It’s still unclear whether one retailer will occupy the entire space or if it will be split into smaller parcels, he said.
Miller also said one of the mall’s current department stores — identified on the company’s website as Dillard’s — is interested in expanding and renovating “under certain conditions.”
The overall renovation will likely occur in stages. “The tenants aren’t all going to close,” Miller noted, so there will be “a sort of sequence of openings, not some grand opening.”
Miller recalled living in Santa Fe during the 1990s, and said he remembers Santa Fe Place, then known as Villa Linda, as a “vibrant” place.
“For whatever reason, this mall has just gone downhill for so long. Right now, it’s not really relevant to the community. It doesn’t have great restaurants. It doesn’t have all the attributes you would want,” he said.
Gregory Greenfield & Associates bought the mall in 2004 and proceeded to renovate it. Babcock & Brown bought it in 2007.
A focus group of about 20 people organized by Santa Fe Place management provided some insights for the new plans. Group members told managers that local shoppers have serious safety concerns about the mall, often bypassing Santa Fe Place in favor of shopping in Albuquerque, and they are “disenchanted” with the mall’s name, condition and previous owners.
While a rebranding scheme includes several new name possibilities, a moniker mentioned on the company’s website is Las Ramblas, after the famous boulevard in Barcelona, Spain.
Santa Fe’s Land Use Director Matthew O’Reilly said mall planners have discussed their ideas with municipal officials, but haven’t yet submitted any formal documents or applications.
“This mall has not evolved with what customers want. It hasn’t even tried. Once we complete it, it has to be on a track where it evolves every year on a sustainable course,” Miller said.
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