Nebraska Furniture Mart's Texas site a magnet for developers

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Posted: Tuesday, January 28, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 11:24 am, Tue Mar 25, 2014.

Nebraska Furniture Mart hasn't announced the names of any retailers planning to lease space in its massive 433-acre development north of Dallas, but at least two competitors already have purchased property nearby and are planning to open their own furniture and bedding showrooms.

And area real estate experts say the project has proved to be a magnet for other developers, too.

“Several hotels have purchased sites along the frontage roads ... dozens of restaurants are competing for pads and space in existing and proposed new developments. ... Kroger has a new [grocery] store planned ... and at least two movie theaters are vying for locations along this corridor. Almost every available tract of land is in play with either developers or investors,” John Zikos, a partner at Venture Commercial Real Estate in Dallas, wrote in a blog post.

Tommy Crowell, a partner at Standridge Companies, a Carrollton, Texas, real estate investment firm, said Grandscape — the name of the development the Mart is anchoring — has triggered a land grab in the past three years. Commercial real estate prices in the area have doubled and tripled as retailers compete to be near the development, Crowell said.

The Mart is building its third, and largest, full-line store, a 1.86million-square-foot showroom and warehouse in The Colony, a suburb with 40,000 residents about 25 miles north of Dallas.

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The walls and roof of the Texas store and warehouse are up. The Mart is advertising Texas positions in such areas as human resources, warehouse management and loss prevention. And stocking of the warehouse is expected to start as soon as October — months before the spring 2015 opening.

The project's footprint sits on about one-fourth of Grandscape, which spans 327 football fields and eventually will share space with hotels, restaurants, entertainment centers and retailers.

Omaha's homegrown furniture, appliance and electronics retailer, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. company, is taking the lead in developing Grandscape, estimated as a $1.5 billion investment when complete.

Inside the future Mart, construction of some interior offices and display galleries already is underway, and flooring is scheduled to arrive next month and be installed beginning in March.

But a rival home furnishings store, Rooms to Go, reportedly plans to beat the Mart to opening day.

Rooms to Go is building a 52,000-square-foot store across the highway from Grandscape and plans to open its furniture showroom by the end of this year, said Tod Maurina, The Colony's assistant city manager of special development.

The Florida-based home furnishings retailer, which operates more than 100 stores in the southern U.S. and Puerto Rico, purchased 47 acres, and Maurina said it plans to build a “flagship store” on about five of those acres. Mattress Firm, a Houston-based bedding and mattress store that operates more than 700 stores in 23 states, including 305 in Texas, also plans to open a store on a parcel east of Grandscape.

Mart spokeswoman Katie Rager said Nebraska Furniture Mart officials welcome competition from other home decor and home furnishings retailers.

“I think it's good for business,” Rager said. “Dallas is such a big market, there is room for multiple choices.”

Developers and retailers appear to be banking on projections that the Mart of Texas will attract 8 million visitors a year. When completed, Grandscape is expected to draw 20 million annual visitors.

The Mart is “aggressively courting tenants,” Rager said, but for now it has not yet released the names of any potential tenants, citing an involved contract process.

In the meantime, “Furniture, mattress and home furnishings stores are all positioning themselves along this corridor to take advantage of the ... draw that Nebraska Furniture Mart will provide when it opens. Some are even planning multiple stores on both sides of the freeway, hoping to capture people coming from either direction,” Zikos said.

The massing of home goods stores is not unusual. Many cities and towns in recent years have seen home furnishings districts or “furniture rows” that congregate along a specific street, said Ray Allegrezza, editor-in-chief of Furniture Today.

In the short term, Dallas' home furnishing sector is poised to “heat up” as two major players, the Mart and Rooms to Go, move into the area, Allegrezza said.

The increase in advertising “is going to create a greater 'furniture awareness,' ” Allegrezza said. “People are going to look at their old sofa and decide they need a new one. It will divert a lot of discretionary income into that category. Once everybody settles in, each retailer will garner its own share of the market.”

As for the Mart's ability to compete, Allegrezza said he has no concerns. “Everything the Blumkin family does is done right. For one, the sheer size of their store — that jaw-drop factor — will brings lots of people in. They will get their share of the market in short order.”

Rager said about 200 people have been hired so far for the Texas store. That location is expected to create about 2,000 jobs, plus 175 new Omaha-based jobs. When hiring is complete, it will “nearly double” the company's payroll to about 4,700 from the current 2,700, Rager said.

The floor of the 1.3 million-square-foot warehouse was completed last week, Rager said. With the store's exterior nearly ready, completion of the five-story parking garage with space for 2,000 vehicles and the customer pickup area is the next priority.

As for the remaining Grandscape portion, it's undergoing extensive site preparation, including the underground placement of sewer lines, utility lines and other infrastructure. “We're starting to pour the main roads within the development. That will help with receiving shipments to the store,” Rager said.

The area is already becoming a destination of sorts. In November, a 65,000-square-foot Top Golf high-tech entertainment center opened five minutes from Grandscape at State Highway 121 and Blair Oaks.

“Players use real golf balls, which are microchipped to track distance and accuracy of the shot,” said Adrienne Browne, Top Golf's spokeswoman. The high-tech, three-level facility features 102 hitting bays, restaurants, live music and other entertainment.

Top Golf's executives said they expect the two venues will complement each other. “We're expecting 425,000 visitors our first year,” Browne said. “We're expecting even more visitors when Nebraska Furniture Mart and Grandscape open.”

The Omaha World-Herald Co. is owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

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