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New retail life at San Mateo & Central

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new building being erected at the old location fro the Fujiyama Japenese restaurant.Having owned property at Central and San Mateo for more than 30 years, Santosh Mody and his hotelier family have seen “the good, the bad and the ugly of Central.”

But right now, he said, he senses a positive shift in the area, and the Modys are ready to join the wave.

They plan to build a new $2.1 million neighborhood shopping center on their land. The Trade Winds Shopping Center – named after the hotel they formerly operated at the site – should break ground this summer.

“There is a lot of good development going into that area, and I think it’s time to develop that site,” Mody said of the parcel, vacant since the hotel was demolished in 2009.

Trade Winds is not the only new retail activity cropping up along that section of Central.

A few blocks west of San Mateo where the New Chinatown restaurant once stood, brothers Nick and Costa Pavlakos are in the midst of their own new development, a nearly $1.2 million retail project called Plaza 66.

“It seems like things are turning for the better” in that area, said Nick Pavlakos, whose father, Sam, bought land there in 1947 and had been a partner in New Chinatown.

Neither project has signed tenants, but they both will cater to small-scale merchants and service providers – a category that might include restaurants, cellphone stores, nail salons and the like.

The Trade Winds will include four buildings – one with a drive-through – totalling 19,300 square feet. Klinger Constructors could break ground next month, Mody said. Richard Abel, a qualifying broker for Pegasus Retail, is handling the leasing for the project, which features 17 different spaces.

Landmark Construction already is working on Plaza 66, a two-building, nine-space center. Evangeline Pavlakos will market the spaces.

Elected officials who represent the area say the developments exemplify the larger transformation they see taking place at a busy intersection known for a towering, 18-story office building and heavy city bus service but also for various problems.

City Councilor Rey Garduño said it generates a particularly high number of calls for police and emergency service.

But Garduño cites multiple large-scale projects in the area – including NDI New Mexico’s multimillion-dollar renovation of the Hiland Theater and the overhaul of the Sundowner apartments near Central and San Pedro – as promising signs.

“I think all of those things put together will help that area become a vibrant part of the city rather than just a busy part of the city,” Garduño said.

Nick Pavlakos – who grew up in the area, working inside New Chinatown – said the neighborhood has had its issues, but “there’s a different quality to it right now.”

“I think with NDI and projects like this going, it will really make a difference,” he said.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said the Hiland transformation has served as something of a catalyst. The county bought it in 2005 – and leased it to NDI New Mexico in 2009 – in part to spur additional investment into the area. She said it’s worked.

“There has been an obvious change. What you see since the Hiland reopened its doors is really positive economic activity,” she said.

Pavlakos wants to contribute to the effort with Plaza 66, moving on from the fire that destroyed the restaurant about two years ago. Though New Chinatown was long gone – the restaurant had a different name and owner when it burned – he called the loss “devastating” and said he looks forward to building something that contributes to the revitalization but also honors the Mother Road.

“We’re kind of excited to (make) it so it looks like it’s part of Route 66,” Pavlakos said of the project, designed by Tom Gentry. “We’re trying to capitalize on that scene and also add to the neighborhood.”

In fact, both of the new retail centers will celebrate their Route 66 location with various retro design elements.

The Tradewinds, designed by architect Roger Cinelli, will incorporate neon-like LED lighting and erect a new sign modeled after the hotel’s original marker. Pavlakos said Plaza 66 will have a tower feature reminiscent of old area filling stations.

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