More than 6.5 million people in the Dallas metro area, "a great economy, terrific growth and a great marketplace" made the suburb of The Colony, Texas, the right location for Nebraska Furniture Mart's next and largest retail store, said Robert Batt, the company's executive vice president.
"We've been looking since the day we opened in Kansas City," he said. "And we've done a lot of searching." In the end, the North Texas area has "a wonderful business climate, and the people are just friendly, nice people."
The new store — 1.2 million square feet of warehouse space, a 546,000-square-foot showroom, and 25,000 square feet of regional corporate office space — would be the anchor and first phase of what ultimately could be a $1.5 billion development built by Nebraska Furniture Mart.
The plan is for construction to start next spring with the first phase opening by May 2015.
The still-unnamed development would occupy vacant land — Batt said it's owned by Maharishi International, a spiritual group that once had planned to build the world's tallest structure there — along a busy highway corridor.
The project would include a regional headquarters for the Furniture Mart, which is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. of Omaha.
Batt said the visibility from the highway — more than 100,000 cars drive it daily — and the proximity to the area's major airports also were key in selecting The Colony.
Batt said he did not know the cost of the store. "It's preliminary," he said.
Batt said many details are still being worked out, but the financing is in place. "Remember who we're related to," he said, referring to cash-rich Berkshire, the company headed by Warren Buffett.
Batt said negotiations are under way for a theme park on the Texas property, and the development would include other retailers, hotels, a convention center, restaurants and residences. "Everything's possible," he said.
None of the other tenants have been identified.
"We're going to make it unlike anything that has been seen in Texas," Batt said. "We want to get it up and operating as soon as we can. ... There's a lot of land and a lot of people there."
The development's site is 433 acres, with 90 of that earmarked for the Mart. As a comparison, Sarpy County's Southport East and West developments — home of the Embassy Suites Convention Center, Cabela's, PayPal and other businesses — occupy a combined 252 acres.
City of The Colony documents outline plans for the larger development by the end of 2020.
"I'm pumped," said Troy Powell, The Colony city manager. "I don't think we can get a better partner.
"Our ultimate goal is to create the most unique and dynamic experience in a retail center that you can create. It's always a positive when you can partner with a company like Nebraska Furniture Mart. It brings a lot of credibility to our community and a lot of jobs to our citizens."
The Mart's new store would employ about 1,700 people and also create "a lot" of jobs in Omaha, which will remain the company's headquarters, Batt said. More merchandisers, logistics workers, call center employees and others in Omaha will be needed to handle the increased sales, although the Texas store's warehousing and most other functions will be handled locally.
Any other retailers would offer goods besides the Mart's furniture, electronics, flooring and appliances, he said, such as women's clothing.
Powell said it could easily be one of the area's largest retail developments ever.
"I think it gives people another reason to come here," he said. "It's a great gateway into our community."
He said he's excited to see what other possibilities come out of the Mart moving into town.
In Kansas City, Kan., the Mart's development spurred further development, including at least eight hotels, other major retailers, car dealerships and a water park, Batt said.
"That's probably what's going to happen here (in Texas)," Batt said.
The Colony is growing and so is the North Texas region, Powell said.
"What separates us in our region is the quality of life," he said. "We are a smaller community, but we put a very high priority on customer service, and we have a lot of parks and recreational facilities."
Earlier this year, Money Magazine named The Colony one of the best places to live in America — the same list Papillion made. The Dallas suburb also has been named a Sports Illustrated Sportstown for its commitment to programs and facilities for youth and adult sports.
Powell said the Mart has no major competitors in his city. He said there are furniture stores dotted throughout the Dallas area, but "none as significant as Nebraska Furniture Mart."
The Mart, founded in Omaha in 1937 by the late Rose Blumkin, opened its second major store in Kansas City, Kan., in 2003. A smaller outlet is in Des Moines. The Mart has an estimated 2,800 employees in Omaha and Kansas City.
The Dallas project would be the first developed by the Furniture Mart itself. In Kansas City, its store is part of a development that includes the Kansas Speedway and a Cabela's. Its Omaha store is a multibuilding complex that started in a tornado-damaged office building.
Batt said final construction contracts for the new project aren't signed, the land purchase isn't final, a design isn't completed and even the name of the development and the name of the new furniture store are under study.
It might be called the Nebraska Furniture Mart, but it might be called something else, he said.
Powell said he doesn't see an issue with the store in Texas having "Nebraska" in its name.
"I think the Nebraska Furniture Mart name is a symbol of quality and everything they stand for," he said. "People who aren't familiar with it, the minute they go inside, are going to quickly welcome that. I see it as a positive thing."
The project has the support of local government agencies, Batt said, including the city council in The Colony, which approved the development plan Tuesday night.
The land has no roads, sewers or water, he said, so the project will seek tax-increment financing, which diverts new taxes generated by the development to go toward site improvements. But the city said no other tax funds would be involved in the project.
"It's exciting not just for our community, but for the entire region," Powell said. "Nebraska Furniture Mart comes in with a tremendous reputation for doing things the right way."
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