Tuesday, November 12, 2013

‘Fountains at Farah’ Officially Opens

Lifestyle Promenade Filled with Amenities, Empty Spaces

The Fountains at Farah shopping center celebrated its official Grand Opening this past weekend, debuting the promenade area to the public. Despite the throng of visitors to the Fountains, many spaces along the lifestyle area remain empty with only a few stores open.
Visitors to the Fountains at Farah shopping center get an up close look at the “splash pad” fountain. The feature may be more popular in the summer.

Patrons at the center were greeted by entertainment, activities, and various fountains along the 1,800-foot “main street” promenade, the shopping area closest to Interstate 10. This lifestyle portion of the center includes one lane of traffic in each direction divided by a large median. Vehicles can park in angled spaces along the drive.

In the park-like median, shoppers will find interactive and decorative fountains, kiosks, and an amphitheater. An ice skating rink will soon join the lineup and is scheduled to be operational before the end of November.
Vehicles can park in angled spaces along the promenade at the Fountains at Farah.

Shops and restaurant spaces line each side of the “main street,” with storefronts along the northwestern side hiding the lower level of the parking garage. Escalators help shoppers get to and from the upper big-box level of the Fountains. And pleasant music fills the air from outdoor speakers placed strategically along paths.

Walking along the promenade on grand opening weekend was a steamy affair, even in the November sun. Somewhat mature trees should help shade pedestrians from the bright sunlight as the trees grow larger and increase the canopy over the years.

Very few retailers were actually open on the promenade. Only Charlotte Russe, Altar’d State, and Ann Taylor Loft have officially opened along the storefronts positioned in front of the lower parking level. On the other side, Verizon, AT&T, and the Vitamin Shoppe were also open.
A handful of retailers are now open in the promenade section of the Fountain at Farah shopping center, but many spaces remain empty. The yellow areas in this map of the center represent vacant spaces while the blue areas represent stores or restaurants that are not yet open.

Other retailers and restaurants scheduled to open in the next few weeks include Deutsch & Deutsch, Designer Studio, Kona Grill, Chipotle, and Barriga’s. Many spaces remain empty, including sizeable glass and steel structures in the wide median which resemble conservatories.

The site’s developer, Centergy Retail of Dallas, has recently stated that 75% of the Fountains at Farah has been leased, a statistic clearly boosted by the popularity of the big-box upper level of the center. Nearly all the retailers here have opened. The more interesting lifestyle area of the center is far more vacant.

The first level of the parking structure
is behind the promenade level shops.
“I’m not impressed,” stated El Paso resident Gustavo Gonzalez during a visit to the center on Saturday, adding, “So much of the lifestyle area is empty. They even had to bring in food trucks due to the lack of restaurants. Considering it’s the grand opening, I was expecting more stores and restaurants.”

Still, Gonzalez remains hopeful, stating, “It’s a great looking shopping center, and I wish trendy spots like Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen could see the potential. Maybe in a few months there will more of a selection.”

Traffic was also an issue at times as vehicles entering the promenade area encountered a line of cars, particularly when coming from Hawkins Boulevard. Entrances to the lower parking level are all located along the promenade. Holiday traffic will test the center’s design in the coming months.

There were clear signs that the Fountains is still transitioning from construction site to functional shopping center. Some decorative sections of wall were missing in spots, and portable restrooms lined the entrances to the parking structure because the permanent restrooms were not yet ready.
Visitors to the Fountains at Farah await entertainment at the amphitheater stage.

The center’s website is also under transition. Visitors to the site will find a “New Website Coming Soon” message with no links, a sign that the website will most likely soon resemble a shopping center site with information like hours of operation, a map, and tenants list.

The Fountains at Farah shopping center replaced a long-vacant, blighted factory building that was highly visible from Interstate 10. Local businessman Paul Foster purchased the property years back and tapped Centergy Retail to develop the land into a shopping center. The City of El Paso approved incentives for the center to help guarantee that the eyesore warehouse would be demolished.