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En Route to a New Winrock

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After years of inactivity, the redevelopment of Winrock finally began Friday when crews began demolishing the 50-year-old Winrock Inn, clearing the land for new retail and preparing for an IMAX movie complex.

“It’s been a huge effort,” said Gary Goodman, president of Goodman Realty Group, which owns Winrock Partners, the developer of the project. “It hasn’t come easy. It’s been five years in the making.”

The restaurants, theaters and other businesses coming in with newly announced tenants will create more than 700 new jobs in addition to construction jobs for the redevelopment, he said.

“These are jobs for our city, and these are also jobs that are helping create a renaissance for Winrock,” Mayor Richard Berry said during a groundbreaking ceremony. “That’s really a great thing. This is a very special place for the city.”

Construction was under way Friday in the parking lot area east of Romano’s Macaroni Grill, where a 9,200-square-foot BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse – an Italian chain based in Huntington Beach, Calif., and known for its Chicago-style deep dish pizza – will be built.

Renovation was also under way for the former T.G.I. Friday’s to become Genghis Grill, a Mongolian stir-fry chain.

Construction of the planned 24,600-square-foot Dave & Buster’s – a food, games and alcohol chain based in Dallas – should begin soon on the north side of the property, Goodman said.

And work on a 16-screen IMAX Regal Cinemas theater should begin in the next couple of weeks, the company said.

Goodman said the work so far has involved local companies.

“It’s been a tremendous effort, and I want to emphasize it’s all local,” he said. “The people designing, the engineers, our staff are all local people, which makes us unique among large projects in this state. It takes more than just our company. It takes a strong community effort.”

A new theater complex was first mentioned in 2003 as part of a planned overhaul of Winrock. Tenants began to leave the mall in 2002 in preparation for the remodeling – a project eventually put on hold because of soaring construction costs and problem with easements and road plans.

Winrock Partners signed on as the leasing agent in 2007. It now owns the property and has been planning a remodeling of the 83-acre site in Uptown, a project called Winrock Town Center.

In April 2009, Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation creating two separate Tax Increment Development Districts – Winrock Town Center and a 7.5-acre development just south of ABQ Uptown planned by Hunt Development Group.

But there had been little activity in the TIDDs since their approval, which Goodman Realty Group attributed to problems obtaining financing.

Demolition of the two-story hotel, built in 1962, was the first step in the Winrock redevelopment process. A portion of the hotel was torn down Friday. Demolition work continues next week, said Darin Sand, spokesman for Goodman Realty Group.

Cats living in and around the hotel were safely captured and relocated by New Mexico Animal Friends earlier this week, Sand said.

Goodman, during the ceremony, also thanked Winrock retailers Dillard’s; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Sports Authority; Toys “R” Us; Garduño’s; Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Winrock 6 for sticking it out.

Winrock 6 will close when the new theater opens, Sand said. Dillard’s, Sports Authority, Toys “R” Us, Garduño’s and Romano’s Macaroni Grill will stay part of Winrock.

The company would like to make Winrock a “lifestyle center” that includes living, working, shopping and entertainment elements, Sand said. Specific plans and a schedule are still being developed.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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