MCALLEN, RGV – Developer Javier Aldape, managing partner of Acre Construction, was pretty clear what he wanted to do with some prime real estate he bought on the north frontage of Expressway 83 in McAllen.

“We wanted to do a plaza that looked different and fresh. We had a different concept: we wanted to bring first-to-market retailers and restaurants, as many as we could. We thought it was time to bring something new to the Valley, so people can have something new to experience. We think we have done this with Premier Plaza,” Aldape said.

The address of Premier Plaza in McAllen is 101 E. Expressway 83/Interstate 2 Frontage Road. It is just west of McColl Road, close to where the new Rio Bank Tower is being built.

Javier Aldape

The first restaurant to open there is The Halal Guys, a franchise offering Mediterranean Cuisine that started out in 1990 as a food cart on 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in New York City. 

On his trips to New York, Aldape, who brought the franchise to McAllen, was struck by the long queues of people waiting to be fed at lunchtime. He noted that “the tasty menu” includes Gyro, Chicken, Falafel and much more, “topped with our world famous white sauce and the super hot red sauce.”

Aldape said he hopes Valley residents will try out the Halal Guys menu.

“It started as a food cart in New York in 1990, on Sixth and 53rd Street. It only became a franchise five or six years ago. Now there are restaurants in Indonesia and Dubai. What is special is the flavor of the food. It is really good food at a reasonable price. I am from Mexico so I love tacos, I love spicy food, I love tasty food. This is tacos from the Mediterranean.”

Premier Plaza is being developed in two phases. One of the first-to-market stores coming as part of phase one is Wi Store, which aims to offer the most advanced computer technology service center, retail store and showroom in the Rio Grande Valley.

Also in the first-to-market bracket is Mori Robata, offering Fine Japanese Seafood Cuisine. The restaurant has been developed by the founders of Kumori Sushi & Teppanyaki Restaurant. Mori’s will also include a full selection of quality beverages and spirits.

Aldape said he is particularly pleased to have La UNO Cevichería, which started out in Guadalajara, Mexico, and offers Caribbean Modern Seafood Cuisine. The restaurant can also be found in Monterrey, Cancun, Reynosa and Santiago de Queretaro. It will make its debut in the United States in McAllen. “This restaurant will be located on the second floor, with a really nice patio overlooking the expressway,” Aldape said.

Valley Med Urgent Care will also be housed with Premier Plaza. The company has clinics in Brownsville, Columbus, Texas, and three in Houston.

“We are also going to have another restaurant owned by an local entrepreneur, Francisco Paez. It is a new concept restaurant, I cannot say what it will be right now but it will be different,” Aldape promised.

Jeffrey Smith’s perspective

Jeffrey E. Smith of Coldwell Banker Commercial is helping to find tenants for Premier Plaza.

“We are pretty excited about the project. We are marketing this as a luxury lifestyle center. We are trying to raise the standard,” Smith told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“When Palms Crossings is your competition in terms of quality, which is the way we look at it, and they are so big, we are trying to raise the standard.”

Jeffrey E. Smith

Speaking of Aldape, Smith said: “My developer is an awesome guy to work with. He is actually the creative genius behind this thing. He is a 33-year-old man and is pretty spectacular to work with. He is the driving force behind the development.”

Asked about the second phase of Premier Plaza, which is scheduled for construction in 2019, Smith said: “We are talking to some pretty prominent first-to-market restaurants for the second phase. I am trying to get a coffee concept here. We need breakfast. I have got great dinners and lunches. I really need breakfasts and coffee. With the Rio Bank Tower coming soon there are going to be hundreds more people working around here.”

Smith said he has “an agreement in principle” with Tesla to have a charging station for its vehicles. “There is a real sticking point about not being able to sell cars directly from the manufacturers here in Texas. We are trying to get them to take a space in the second phase, just as a display, like a museum, with charging spaces.”

Smith said he also has an electronics products company that is interested in moving into Premier Plaza. “I cannot officially announce anything just yet but we have a household name that is finalizing the licensing. I am hoping in the next 60 days.”

Asked about the electronics products company, Aldape said: “We are working on authorization. Hopefully we will know something within the next one or two months.”

Family business

Javier Aldape, a native of Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas, comes from a family of developers. Growing up, he helped his father, Jose Francisco Aldape, develop a real estate business in Mexico. “In Mexico we have commercial real estate in 12 states. We have been developing houses too, in Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Matamoros. With the commercial development, we are investors for a bigger company, Grupo Costa Verde, which has development all across the country. It is good because we get to participate a year before a project is developed.”

Premier Plaza is Aldape’s second development project in McAllen. With a friend he started a CrossFit gym in north McAllen. “With CrossFit, I got to learn how to apply my knowledge from Mexico to the U.S. With all the permits from the city, it can get a little bit complicated.”

Asked about the differences between developing in Mexico and the United States, Aldape said: “Construction is pretty much the same but managing it, with all the legal, accounting, and real estate involved, is different. We had to have a solid team from the beginning and that took me a while to assemble. It took me about a year to get them together.”

Asked about phase two of Premier Plaza, Aldape said:

“We will start next year. The concept? We are still working on it. With this one (phase one), we got really good feedback from changing the concept, by making it more contemporary. With the next one, we are going to go one step further. We will make it even more appealing. We have architects from here in the Valley, from Monterrey and from Guadalajara, working on the concept.”

There should no shortage of commuters noticing Premier Plaza because 130,000 vehicles go back and forth each day on Expressway 83.

“This is one of the last properties in front of the expressway. It is a great property. It was expensive but, at the end of the day we got a good negotiation. We wanted to bring new-to-market concepts. We want to continue to do that. The big restaurants in Monterrey, we are working with them to bring them to the Valley,” Aldape said.

Aldape is sure McAllen residents and visitors will enjoy the new concepts. “The Valley has grown a lot. McAllen has grown a lot. But for some reason, some of the best retailers and restaurants have not come here, yet. We are trying to do something different to encourage them to come here.”

Aldape concluded his interview by giving a shoutout to two City of McAllen employees who have helped his company secure all the permits necessary to open Premier Plaza – Assistant City Manager Michelle Rivera and Retail Development Director Rebecca Olaguibel. 

“Michelle and Rebecca have worked really well with us. There are a ton of paperwork and permits you must get from the city and sometimes that can delay the project. But they have helped us, they have made themselves available to us. The only reason we have been able to open on schedule is because they have been so helpful to us.”

Aldape added: “We are excited about this project. Although The Halal Guys is first to open, there is a lot more coming. Some will open in August and some in September. They are all exciting new concepts. Let’s hope the people of McAllen and the Valley accept these new concepts.”