HARLINGEN, Texas – A real estate broker says Harlingen’s Valle Vista Mall is about to be revamped, with a move away from strictly retail business.

Daniel Galvan, principal broker at Coldwell Banker Commercial – Rio Grande Valley, spoke about his company’s work in Harlingen at a recent “virtual tour” webinar of the city hosted by the Rio Grande Valley Partnership.

Going forward, Coldwell Banker Commercial-RGV will sponsor the RGVP’s tours around the Valley. The tours currently have to be “virtual” because of COVID-19.

“We have always found them extremely informative and extremely beneficial,” Galvan said of the tours. In previous months, RGVP has focused on Rio Grande City, Edinburg and McAllen. The one on Harlingen featured Harlingen Economic Development Corporation and Coldwell Banker.

“We are a full-service real estate firm based in McAllen, serving all of South Texas,” Galvan said of his company’s catchment area. “We focus on brokerage services, leasing services, development, commercial property management, and even do a little bit of valuation.”

The five market sectors Coldwell Bank specializes in are retail, office, industrial, land and a little bit of multi-family. “Retail and office probably comprise about 75 percent of what we do,” Galvan explained.

Daniel Galvan of Coldwell Banker Commercial-Rio Grande Valley.

Among the companies and institutions Coldwell Banker works with are Blue Wave Express, Chick-fil-A, Denny’s, Circle K, Taco Bell, Chase, Shipley Do-Nuts, IDEA Public Schools, Harbor Freight, WellMed, Tropical Cafe, UFC, Louisiana Kitchen, BU, CiCi’s Pizza, Domino’s Pizza, Siempre Natural, Easter Seals, Orange Theory, Black Bear Diner, James Avery, Whataburger, Capitol One, Golden Corral, Well Fargo, Tractor Supply, Great Dane, IBC Bank, Ojos Locos, and Smoothie King. 

“Some of these are first-to-market concepts that are expanding in South Texas. Some of these concepts are brands that have been in South Texas for a long, long, time,” Galvan said. “We love doing business in South Texas. Every part of South Texas is unique.”

In addition to Valle Vista Mall, Coldwell is working on some other projects in Harlingen.

“We are currently redeveloping the corner of Ed Carey and Sunshine Strip. Most of you know that site as an old, rundown gas station. That gas station will be nonexistent pretty soon. We have got a pretty exciting project for which we should start moving dirt on pretty soon,” Galvan said.

“We are redeveloping a site on Tyler and Harrison next to Whataburger. If you drive by there today it has got this older, multi-colored, multi-tenant building and in the near future that building will likely be redeveloped.”

Galvan said Coldwell also has some land projects that will likely turn into medical offices. However, he said the main focus of his presentation on the RGVP virtual tour webinar would be Valle Vista Mall. 

“Anybody who has traveled through Harlingen is familiar with Valle Vista Mall. We want to talk today about what is going on there and the changes going on there in the near future,” Galvan said.

“The shopping mall industry on a national leave is changing significantly due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic we are in the middle of but even before that the shopping mall industry was undergoing some change. With concepts like Amazon and eBay, the shopping experience has changed significantly and with that we are seeing a significant change in the shopping mall industry.”

Galvan pointed out that the shopping mall industry as a whole has started to pivot away from general retail and move towards institutional-, office- and medical-type users. 

“And so with that we are going to start seeing some real change at the (Valle Vista) mall,” Galvan explained. “As you are aware the Forever 21 box has been converted to an urban air entertainment park. That is the prime example of the change we are seeing the shopping mall industry.”

Galvan continued: “Most of you know that Valle Vista Mall experienced a little bit of a tumultuous time for a little while and experienced some really high vacancies. We are filling that vacancy and so we recently sold the 90,000 square foot Sears box, which will start being redeveloped here in the near future. You will see some entertainment concepts. You might see some retail there but we are also getting really close to an exciting project with the Dillards box.”

Galvan was quick to point out that Dillards “is not going anywhere anytime soon.” However, he did predict there will be development with the Dillards box. “That is really not something I can get into in great detail but for the sake of discussion I wanted to share with you that there will be some exciting stuff going on there.”

It is the interior of the shopping malls that are changing most, Galvan said. He presented a slide showing the various retail options inside Valle Vista Mall. 

“Again, shifting away from retail you will notice everything in yellow is what is available inside the mall. And you will see a couple of large spaces at lease. Those spaces there at lease are all institutional uses. This would be anything from call centers, colleges, are employers, like Raudel said. You are going to start seeing (them) at Valle Vista Mall in the near future.”

The “Raudel” Galvan referenced was Raudel Garza, general manager and CEO of Harlingen Economic Development Corporation. Garza was also on the RGVP webinar.

“Valle Vista Mall is a huge asset, probably about 700,000 square feet of space. Things don’t happen overnight but there is a lot of exciting things going on there which I think the City of Harlingen and even Cameron County as a whole will start to see here in the near future,” Galvan concluded.

Galvan provided more information in a Q&A after his presentation. In response to a question about Valle Vista Mall from Sergio Contreras, president of RGV Partnership, Galvan said: “We have got institutional users looking at space in the mall. We have got colleges, medical, that is the shift we are seeing at the mall and so that is the direction we see Valle Vista going. There will always be a retail component to it. But again, the tenant mix will be significantly different.”

Asked by Contreras if he could provide any examples, Galvan said: “We are working with a college right now to try to get them to take some space. We are down the road. We have got a call center coming in, which I mentioned (will be) about 300 or 400 jobs, from what I understand.”

Galvan said he can talk most about the Spears box at Valle Vista Mall because details of the transformation are in the public domain. They have been in the local newspaper.

“That is a 90,000 square foot box. There are not a lot of 90,000 square foot tenants in the market these days. And so the play there will be to redevelop. We will start carving out commercial pad sites at the mall and so you will start to see those changes. You will see some new fast food guys come to the mall. You will see that Sears box likely get chopped up into different spaces. We will probably bring in another entertainment user. That is some of what we have got in the pipeline.”

Beverly Ticer Loftus, commercial development manager for Harlingen EDC, also spoke about retail development on the RGVP webinar.

“Harlingen has seen great growth in retail and we actually have about $1.2 billion in taxable sales in our 2020 fiscal year, which is about per capita, just over $19,700. We have a strong retail economy. One of the great things that is happening here in Harlingen is that continued growth,” Ticer Loftus said.

By way of example, she noted new retail development at Cameron Crossing and Stuart Place Crossing. She also said a new TJ Maxx is opening near Valle Vista Mall later this month.

Editor’s Note: The above news story is one of a three-part series focused on a recent “virtual tour” webinar the Rio Grande Valley Partnership hosted about Harlingen, Texas. Part Two will be posted in our next edition.

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