LAREDO, Texas – Vibrant colors, a modern structure, and famous brands were the principal attraction during a hard hat tour for the media at The Outlet Shoppes at Laredo, Wednesday morning.
The Outlet Shoppes at Laredo is a joint venture of CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., and Horizon Group Properties, which is scheduled to have a pre-opening on Thursday, March 16. It is located a few feet from the Rio Grande river, at 1600 Water St.
With 1,200 retail jobs in place and an additional 1,500 projected to come during Christmas and Back-To-School seasons, the investment is around $130 million.
The City of Laredo has invested some $20 million in infrastructure around the site (not in the mall itself), Blasita J. Lopez, acting public information officer for Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau Director (LCVB) explained.
“In this facility, there is no investment from the City of Laredo, the incentive from the City came by making the public improvements,” Lopez said.
Thomas Rumptz, executive vice president for Horizon Group Properties, predicted the mall will be an attractive place for the Mexican market because it will offer a large number of destination stores, and plenty variety.
“Border crossing malls have been very successful, and The Outlet Shoppes at El Paso is a good example,” Rumptz said. “It will be very affordable for the consumers, who will get high quality products from the retailers but with the outlet prices.”
It’s the second of its kind on the Texas border. The first one was the one in El Paso, the developer said.
All the 80 places inside the mall have been sold, and the hope is that at least 60 of the retailers will open their doors by March 16.
“People are talking about the brands that we will have, so we feel very positive that it will be a very successful opening,” Rumptz said. “It is a beautiful mall and it will bring great presence to the border, so we feel very confident.”
The project has taken 20 months to get to this point. It started with the demolition of the River Drive Mall and construction of the building. Right now, around 30 people are on site cleaning up debris from the construction. Soon, the products will be installed.
“We are having a lot of activity, a lot of effort is being done to open on time,” Rumptz added. “It has been a lot of effort by MJ Contractors, and the City of Laredo has done a fantastic job in terms of doing plans.”
Roberto Balli, Laredo city councilman for District VIII, participated in the tour. He said it is a very exciting project for downtown Laredo.
“The beautiful thing about this Outlet Mall is that is one of the few outlet malls in the country in an urban area, because most of the time they are located by the side of the roads, so is very interesting how this mall is connected to downtown,” Balli said.
He added that many downtown stores that have been closed for some months are now expressing an interest in opening up again, because they envisage the mall attract thousands of additional shoppers.
“We are expecting a huge influx of people from Mexico and for the region who will come to this outlet mall,” Balli said. “That will provide money for the other services, like maybe restaurants, hotels, and even to look into other shopping opportunities.”
Balli said that after The Outlet Shoppes at Laredo opens, the next step will be to have a new convention center, so the improvements to Downtown will continue.
“Downtown property values have been devalued for some time, and now this will increase their value and the retail opportunities,” he added.
The 358,000-square-foot center will offer two-levels of retail featuring brands such as Michael Kors, Nike, Abercrombie & Fitch, Tommy Hilfiger and Under Armour, according to a press release.
The Outlet Shoppes will have grand opening festivities by early April, just prior to Holy Week.
A private, ticketed event will be hosted at the center on April 5, with proceeds benefiting Bethany House; and, on April 6 the celebration will continue as part of the official dedication ceremony, and shoppers will be given VIP coupon books to use during the Grand Opening Week.
Finally, LCVB will be offering an incentive program for travel agents and operators. This will include special promotional gifts for tour participants, cost of the rental for the first motor coach brought by any particular agency or tour operator, facilitation of booking hotel accommodations and raffle items for tour participants.
“The Outlet Shoppes at Laredo provides a number of benefits to our community, including the chance to ramp up our tourism economy, and continue to host visitors,” Lopez said.
As of the end of February, the City of Laredo is expecting about five buses for the opening on March 16.