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Comment by Lahjik on January 19, 2013 at 9:42am

Oh, trust me; Conn's isn't a discounter by any stretch of the imagination...

Comment by Phil_0 on January 19, 2013 at 2:14pm

Methinks you're pushing the panic button a bit early, Hunter. Conn's is filling a space that's been vacant since before the recession began. The Gap move to Uptown makes more sense in terms of space and demographics. Macy's remains open at Coronado in a different location. Coronado's demographics may be slumping somewhat, but with the debut of a targeted "upscale" mall across the street what else would you expect? The age of the indoor mall is largely over, and it would seem to make sense for Simon (which owns both Coronado and Uptown) to shift the two centers out of direct competition with each other. Meanwhile, Uptown just lured two high-end national retailers to Albuquerque for the first time and announced plans for a 40,000 square foot expansion: that may yet prove to be a fever dream, but it certainly doesn't sound like a "precipitous" decline.

Nor are national chains the only ones succeeding: several local eateries continue to grow and succeed: Farina is working on a NE heights location, Satellite is preparing for franchising and expansion throughout New Mexico and beyond, and the folks behind Holy Cow are readying two new ventures in East Downtown.

There is no doubt that Albuquerque's glitzy pretensions of the mid-2000s have largely melted away. While Downtown is indeed seeing the big density ramp-up its proponents have long desired, it's being filled with affordable or workplace housing instead of fancy condos (another reason a Whole Foods downtown makes no sense). Our economy continues to decline overall and Berry and his allies on the City Council seem to have no substantive ideas to fix it and no success luring game-changing industries (high tech, etc.) into the city. Still, though, things feel suprisingly rosy for a city in the throes of continuing recession...I'm not sure freaking out is warranted.

Comment by Hunter on January 19, 2013 at 3:03pm

Lahjik - Maybe "discounter" is technically the wrong retail classification.  I note that they offer store credit "even if you've been turned down elsewhere".  That usually means loss leader prices offset by exhobinate interest rate installment contracts.  The kind of retailing that targets lower income demographic shoppers.

Phil_O - Coronado is owned by General Growth Properties.  Simon owns Cottonwood and the "Q".  I actually hoped Simon would have bought Cottonwood when GGP was floundering.  Simon owns the Mills brand and, in my opinion, could have done a much better job of repositioning Coronado.  While I haven't yet come across any recent Downtown demographics, now that we are building a realistic housing product I suspect the demand will be more for "whole foods" than Whole Foods.  That is, raw ingregients as opposed to boutique microwaveable meals for one.

Personally, I'm not panicked.  But I do believe that you can't identify the tipping point until it is in your rear view mirror.


Comment by Phil_0 on January 19, 2013 at 7:47pm

Hunter - I stand corrected...though it seems that Coronado will be repositioned in spite of themselves as Uptown captures the high end of the market.

I've wondered about the population of Downtown at this point myself. While I haven't seen any recent numbers either, the profusion of multi-occupancy housing there in just the last five years is impressive, and I'd expect there's a healthy mix of families, singles, and low and high incomes in the vicinity now. Not a Whole Foods crowd, but not the demographic that usually gets targeted by dumping-ground discount grocers either. I find it encouraging and am eager to see what a denser downtown is like...the prospect of 2-4 story residences with ground-floor retail and services lining Silver from 1st to 3rd is an enticing one.

As reported in local media, the overall economic picture still sounds grim, and the current administration at City Hall really hasn't offered anything despite their ostensible "pro-business" mindset. But I am impressed by the signs of life I see lately, all over the city. Maybe it's just me but I find my overall optimism hard to shake.


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