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Albuquerque lands a big catch in retailing

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Albuquerque has reeled in a really big retail fish, and it is headed to a major Duke City business park.

Cabela’s, an outdoor recreation giant with nearly $3.5 billion in annual sales, announced plans Thursday to build its first New Mexico store at the southwest corner of Interstate 25 and Paseo del Norte.

Known for its inventory of hunting, fishing and camping gear, Cabela’s said it would hire an estimated 150 full-time, part-time and seasonal employees for the 70,000-square-foot store. Groundbreaking is expected by late this year, and the store is expected to open by the third quarter of 2017.

Map of Legacy at Journal CenterIt is part of a new development that will change the face of Journal Center, a developer said.

“What today is an 8-to-5 workplace will be more live-work-play,” said Ben Spencer, CEO of Titan Development, the project’s managing partner. “People will live in Journal Center, work in Journal Center and recreate in Journal Center. It’s really transformative for Journal Center.”

The chain, based in Sidney, Neb., is the first to sign onto the 20-acre project – formally called Legacy at Journal Center. Plans for the mixed-use project also include additional retail, restaurants and, for the first time in Journal Center, apartments.

The Legacy at Journal Center plan has evolved since Albuquerque-based Titan bought into the site about 10 years ago, Spencer said.

Lowell Hare, president and CEO of Journal Center Corp., lauded the current vision and implementation. He said it gives people a reason to be in the area on nights and weekends and diversifies the offerings for those already in place.

“Our partners at Titan Development have done a great job working with Cabela’s to be the anchor tenant of the Legacy at Journal Center,” Hare said of the project, in which Journal Center Corp. is a partner. “In addition to the significance of Cabela’s for all of Albuquerque, the Legacy at Journal Center will now be able to provide greater shopping, dining and residential options to the more than 10,000 individuals working in the Journal Center.”

Nebraska-based Cabela’s will anchor the new Legacy at Journal Center development, a mixed-use project that will include stores, restaurants and apartments

Nebraska-based Cabela’s will anchor the new Legacy at Journal Center development, a mixed-use project that will include stores, restaurants and apartments.

Destination retailer

Cabela’s is a destination retailer that should draw traffic from across the state, said commercial real estate broker Jim Dountas, who is spearheading Legacy’s leasing effort with CBRE colleague Lia Armstrong. Dountas called Cabela’s “one of the biggest market entries that New Mexico has seen in a number of years,” and he said it will help lure other businesses. He said several new-to-market restaurant groups have expressed interest in the site.

“It is a very premier piece of real estate at I-25 and Paseo that has been held out for development for something special,” Dountas said.

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry told the Journal on Thursday that he started trying to woo destination retailers, including Cabela’s, during his first term. Raised in Nebraska, he said he has seen the brand’s pull firsthand.

“I know people who make vacations of going and staying for a couple of days and shopping at Cabela’s – this is true,” he said. “The other thing it will do is pull people off the interstate who are driving through that would not otherwise have stopped in our city.”

Cabela’s has more than 80 stores around the U.S. and Canada. While it has none in New Mexico, there are locations in all the neighboring states.

Berry said the city is not offering Cabela’s any financial incentives, such as Local Economic Development Act funds.

“We are thrilled to announce Albuquerque as our first location in New Mexico,” Tommy Millner, Cabela’s CEO, said in a news release. “We’ve had a strong customer base through our online and catalog businesses in this area for many years. Building a store here will allow us to serve those customers better, while also introducing thousands of additional outdoor enthusiasts to the Cabela’s brand and experience.”

Cabela’s announced two new store locations Thursday – the other is outside Detroit. But the company made news for more than its expansion; the New York Post reported that Bass Pro Shops and Goldman Sachs were closing in on a Cabela’s acquisition.

In an email to the Journal on Thursday, a Cabela’s spokesman called the report “rumors and speculation” and declined to comment.

Titan’s Spencer said he is aware of the reports but had no insight into the matter. But even if such a deal happens, he’s confident Albuquerque would get a big outdoor recreation store.

“I know for a fact that Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops have looked at Albuquerque for a number of years,” he said. “Certainly it’s my opinion that if that did happen, there wouldn’t be any change.”

Master plan in process

Legacy takes one of the few remaining vacancies in the nearly 400-acre Journal Center park. When Legacy is complete, only about 10 undeveloped acres will remain, Hare said.

Titan hasn’t cemented the master plan for the entire site or determined total development costs, said Kurt Browning, Titan’s chief development officer. The company will apply for industrial revenue bonds through Bernalillo County for the Legacy project, he said. The developer must repay such bonds, but they can help lower borrowing costs and taxes.

Whatever the final plan, Legacy will reflect the current trend of connecting home, work and fun, Browning said. Titan is working with Albuquerque-based Dekker Perich Sabatini and Bohannan Huston on the plan.

“I think the mixed-use opportunity is the (big) opportunity right now, without a doubt. Nobody planned for residential in the original master plan, but it’s obviously much-needed, in our opinion,” he said.

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