A bold, new look, and

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Wei­de­man

IF YOU HAVEN’T VIS­ITED DEVAR­GAS CEN­TER IN A FEWWEEKS, you’re in for a sur­prise. The mall sud­denly has in­te­rior (pub­lic space) seat­ing for 228, many with elec­tric andUSB plugs close at hand. And the cen­tral area, which had a South­west­ern-theme con­crete struc­ture used to sup­port Santa Claus and not much else, is now an open, bright plain with new car­pets and lots of chairs, couches, and work sta­tions. The paint­ings that were pre­vi­ously in­stalled in the sky­lights were brought down and hung on a cor­ner wall be­tween Las Cosas Kitchen Shoppe and Pizza Etc., two of the mall’s 60 ten­ants.

“Pre­vi­ously we had about 34 benches, those old turquoise benches, but they were not meant for com­ing and en­joy­ing,” said Katy Fitzger­ald, se­nior project man­ager for mall owner Fidelis Realty Part­ners. In­te­rior de­signer May Wil­son, who worked with Fitzger­ald on the re­model, added, “And they were pretty mo­bile. You’d come in and things were re­dis­persed.”

Fitzger­ald said the cost of the work was “up­ward of a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars, but it was worth it. And that’s the whole mall.” Was it DeVar­gas Cen­ter’s turn for in­vest­ment by Fidelis? Or was the re­model pos­si­ble be­cause of good rev­enues from the now-thriv­ing mix of busi­nesses, many of which moved to the mall from San­busco Cen­ter? “Ten years ago, when I started, all of thiswas inmy head, but you can’t have one with­out the other. Ten years ago we needed a few more ten­ants and the own­ers weren’t sure about the re­tail di­rec­tion. San­busco was pure luck. I couldn’t have asked for that to hap­pen.

“One of the things that spurs it, be­cause you have to make the mon­ey­work, is that we have the bowl­ing al­ley and en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter un­der con­struc­tion in the old Trav­eler’s Mar­ket space and that will pos­si­bly open by De­cem­ber. Peo­ple don’t re­al­ize it, but there’s 21,000 square feet back there and they’ll also have shuf­fle­board and bocce ball and vin­tage pin­ball ma­chines. Then Of­fice De­pot will do their new store of the fu­ture where the movie theater was. They’ve wanted to have a smaller space. I’m ex­cited about that. And we just sealed a deal­with­HomeGoods [a TJX Com­pa­nies dis­count home fur­nish­ings store] to take the Of­fice De­pot space.”

The Of­fice De­pot move is ex­pected to oc­cur next year, and Home Goods is slated to open in early 2020.

Last year’s move of Baskin & Rob­bins from the mall’s south side to the north­east was smart. “They were not do­ing well be­cause they have a lot of night­time busi­ness and that is not my night­time side of the mall,” Fitzger­ald said. “But nowthey’re by Panda Ex­press, which does a brisk busi­ness, and Sub­way.

“I can’t just pick up ten­ants and move them and spend that money, so when San­busco hap­pened, it al­lowed me to do the few moves that we needed to make way for San­busco and some of the an­chors. Then it was time to say to the own­ers, ‘Now is the time to do this.’ We’ve worked with other de­sign­ers, but no one had the vi­sion to carry this out un­til MayWil­son. This is a big vi­sion.”

The changes hap­pened quickly. It be­gan with thew­ing that leads to Star­bucks. The prom­ise of a larger re­model was im­por­tant to re­tail­ers like Nina Houle, owner of the On Your Feet shoe store. “I’d been talk­ing to Nina for years. I love Nina, but she was just cer­tain that this was not the place for her. But I kept on her, I told her about this vi­sion, and I told her­wewere go­ing to do this, and one of the things I used to move her was telling her, ‘I’ll do your hall­way first and you’ll know I’m se­ri­ous.’” On Your Feet was the last of the eight San­busco re­tail­ers to move to DeVar­gas Cen­ter; the first was op.cit books.

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